Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956)   BIOGRAPHY

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Working photomontage for Man's Ultimate Destiny
Framed (ref: 5556)

Squared, with pen and ink and white oil paint highlights,
85 x 130 cm (33 1/2 x 51 1/8 in.),
mural scheme for the Rockefeller Center, New York.


Literature: British Murals & Decorative Painting 1920-1960, Sansom & Co, 2013, pp.218-231

Brangwyn's celebrated murals for the Rockefeller Center adorn the facade of the Comcast building, situated at the heart of the center at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.


The murals decorate the main atrium around the entrance to the lifts.

This working photomontage, which was probably developed by Alfred Sinden, was worked upon by Brangwyn with multiple grids for enlarging the image on to the final canvas. The cartoon from which the photograph is taken is one of four in the collection of the William Morris Gallery, London Borough of
Waltham Forest. This photograph shows the final composition in which the figure of Christ has effectively turned his back upon Rockefeller.
In catalogue no. 27, an earlier version of the same composition, Christ faces the viewer.

Picasso and Matisse were originally asked to paint murals for the newly built Rockefeller Centre, but after they declined Brangwyn, the Spanish artist José Maria Sert and the Mexican Diego Rivera were subsequently appointed. Critics complained that American artists should have been chosen for such a prestigious commission.
Further controversy followed in May 1933 when Rivera was prevented from finishing his mural after it was discovered that he had included a portrait of Lenin, and sympathizers of the artist clashed with police outside the building. The authorities also objected to the bright colours of the panel (Sert and Brangwyn had both agreed to paint monochrome works) and the mural was taken down and replaced by a new mural by Sert.
In September 1933, Brangwyn himself faced controversy. Officials from the Rockefeller Center objected to the figure of Christ being included in the fourth panel, representing the Sermon on the Mount.
Raymond M. Hood, one of the architects of the Center, explained that, ‘some people here felt that it would not be fitting to put the figure of Christ in a business building. They thought that might be too strong a representation of an individual religion’. It was suggested that Brangwyn represent Jesus by a light shining from heaven. However the artist merely reversed his figure, so that Christ facing the populace
became the back of a nameless cloaked man.

Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956)

Frank Brangwyn was born in Bruges, Belgium, the son of an English father and Welsh mother. The family returned to London in 1874, Brangwyn's father gaining work as a designer of buildings, embroideries and furniture. Although Brangwyn appears to have had little formal education, whether academic or artistic, his earliest mentors were three of the most influential men in design at the turn of the century: Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo, William Morris and Siegfried Bing. Between 1884 and 1887 Brangwyn travelled to Kent, Cornwall and Devon, before venturing further with trips to Turkey in 1888, South Africa in 1891, Spain in 1892 and Morocco in 1893. Brangwyn was an independent artist, an experimenter and innovator, capable of working on both large and small scale projects, ranging from murals, oil paintings, watercolours, etchings, woodcuts and lithographs to designs for architecture, interiors, stained glass, furniture, carpets, ceramics and jewellery, as well as book illustrations, bookplates and commercial posters. It is estimated that he produced over 12,000 works during his lifetime. Mural commissions included the Worshipful Company of Skinners, London (1902-09), St Aidan's church, Leeds (1908-16), Manitoba Legislative Building, Winnipeg, Canada (1918-21), Christ's Hospital, Horsham (1912-23), State Capitol, Jefferson City, USA (1915-25), the British Empire panels, Swansea (1925-32), and Rockefeller Center, New York (1930-34). Brangwyn married Lucy Ray in 1896 and took on the lease of Temple Lodge, Hammersmith, in 1900. In 1918 the artist purchased The Jointure, Ditchling, where he spent most of his time following his wife's death in 1924. Elected RA in 1919, knighted in 1924, holder of countless artistic awards, Brangwyn was modest about his singular achievements, regarding art as an occupation and describing himself as a designer.

See all works by Frank Brangwyn