Monday, July 16, 2007


When I recently posted a drawing by Frank Brangwyn (1867 - 1956), I was surprised to hear how Brangwyn-- once one of the most famous artists in the world-- had faded from memory.

Early in his career, Brangwyn was touted as "the Rembrandt of tomorrow." Then fashion took a sharp turn toward modernism, and Brangwyn quickly became yesterday's news.

One such modernist group, the Futurists, wrote a wonderful manifesto:

We want to deliver [art] from its gangrene of professors, archaeologists, tourist guides and antiquaries.

To admire an old picture is to pour our sensibility into a funeral urn instead of casting it forward with violent spurts of creation and action. Do you want to waste the best part of your strength in a useless admiration of the past....?

For the dying, for invalids and for prisoners it may be all right. It is, perhaps, some sort of balm for their wounds, the admirable past, at a moment when the future is denied them. But we will have none of it, we, the young, strong and living Futurists!
I get a kick out of the Futurist manifesto, but on my little oasis in blogland we do not judge art on the basis of manifestoes, fashion trends or market statistics. Strip away the politics of the art establishment and judge these once again as pure drawing.

Just as with the studies of Edwin Austin Abbey, Brangwyn's working drawings enable you to see his talent in mid-flight. Note his theatrical instincts as he searches for just the right dramatic pose.

He ain't no Rembrandt, but there's a lot still to be learned from a great talent like this.