[The following passage comes from the author's Frank Brangwyn and His Work. — George P. Landow.

Brangwyn's effects have been likened to those in tapestries or in stained-glass windows, or to those in Eastern carpets; and complaint has been made that his perspective is often too decorative, giving an insufficient depth of space filled with air.


The Buccaneers. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

In examining these frequent criticisms we must bear in mind that they are written from the standpoint of men who have lost touch with fresco-painting and who give their whole attention to the study of easel-pictures. It is equally certain that Brangwyn, after passing away from his work as a marine painter, began, consciously or unconsciously, to prepare himself for the great mural decorations that now occupy the principal part of his time and thought. Even in "The Buccaneers" he is not a maker of easel-pictures, the style being larger and more synthetic; and this reminds us that William Morris made no mistake when he discerned, even in the boy's first studies, that he had come upon a genius for design and handicraft.

Brangwyn's ideas as a painter are not bounded by a gold frame; they belong to the ampler and more difficult conventions of applied art — that is to say, of art applied to the ornamentation of some surface that will bear enrichment without harm to its value as a structural feature. For instance, if walls are to be decorated in a proper manner, there must be unity between them and the paintings that form a part of their surface, otherwise the walls will lose their look of flat strength and become unlike a support in architecture. Some of the base decorators of the eighteenth century went to great pains to give a pictorial perspective to their mural work, with the result that people seemed to be looking through the walls at some distant landscape. They forgot that when a picture is framed and hung up, it is accepted as a thing detached from the wall behind it, so we are willing to take pleasure in its far-going perspective, its illusion of disappearing distances. True art in any kind of fresco work is within the domain of architecture; and for this reason perspective is suggested in such a way that it does not make holes in the wall. We look into and through an easel-picture; we look at and in a mural decoration, and expect it to be apt for its purpose.

At a time when painting has degenerated into a mere ornament to be put in gilt frames against walls, it is inevitable that onlookers should be at first worried by any painter whose feelings for art are decorative, not pictorial; and Brangwyn's native delight in the larger aspects of design, when considered as a servant of architecture, has been developed by his liking for the most varied kinds of applied ornamentation. [104-105]


Sparrow, Walter Shaw. Frank Brangwyn and His Work. New York: Dana Estes, 1911. Internet Archive version of a copy in the Ontario College of Art. Web. 29 December 2012.

Last modified 29 December 2012