The artist who looked to the east

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

THE 150th an­niver­sary of the birth of the multi-tal­ented Frank Brang­wyn (1867–1956) is be­ing marked by Waltham­stow’s Wil­liam Mor­ris Gal­ley with an ex­hi­bi­tion of items from the artist’s own col­lec­tion. ‘Sheer Plea­sure —Frank Brang­wyn and the Art of Ja­pan’ runs from Fe­bru­ary 4 to May 14. Re­flect­ing his spe­cial in­ter­est in Ja­panese art, along­side wood­block prints by Ja­panese mas­ters Yashima Gakutei (right) and Uta­gawa Hiroshige, the gallery will dis­play ex­am­ples of Brang­wyn’s col­lab­o­ra­tive work with noted print­maker Yoshi­jiro Urushibara.

One of Brang­wyn’s fea­tured paint­ings, Swans, com­pleted in 1920, also re­flects the Ja­panese in­flu­ence. A pro­tégé of Wil­liam Mor­ris, Brang­wyn is es­ti­mated to have pro­duced more than 12,000 works in his life­time, in­clud­ing oils, lith­o­graphs, de­signs for fur­ni­ture and stained-glass pan­els. He was the first artist to be given a Royal Academy ret­ro­spec­tive while still liv­ing and the Wil­liam Mor­ris Gallery’s col­lec­tion of his works is sec­ond (in size) only to that of the Bri­tish Mu­seum.

De­spite an in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion, Brang­wyn di­vided opin­ion, deemed a sus­pect avant-gardist by some and an Es­tab­lish­ment lackey by oth­ers. He spent the in­creas­ingly reclu­sive sec­ond half of his life in the South Downs vil­lage of Ditch­ling. Jack Watkins

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