Friday, July 31, 2009

Frank Brangwyn and the Decorative Arts

Frank Brangwyn is probably better known as a fine artist, but throughout his career he was drawn towards the decorative arts, as well as his own fine art work. He produced design work in stained glass, furniture, glass, metal, ceramic, jewellery, tapestry and carpet, as well as designing interiors and exhibition spaces and producing a number of murals.

Brangwyn, unlike many fine artists, was fairly closely associated with a number of guilds and organizations dedicated to the decorative arts. He was in fact apprenticed to William Morris for four years and also knew Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo and was familiar with the Century Guild that Mackmurdo had set up in 1882.

Brangwyn was in fact born in Bruges in Belguim, where his Father had settled to become a successful ecclesiastical architect and textile designer. When the family moved back to Britain, Brangwyn spent time at the South Kensington Art School.

The breadth of Brangwyn's interests and connections, is fairly staggering. He exhibited at the first Secession Exhibition in Vienna in 1898. He designed stained glass work for Louis Comfort Tiffany. He worked for William Morris and was also commissioned by Siegfried Bing for a number of projects. He also travelled widely throughout Europe, Turkey and North Africa and it was perhaps these trips that helped to expand Brangwyns art and design capabilities.

He produced a fairly wide range of carpets, tapestries and rugs throughout his career. In 1930 he designed the carpet shown here for the Glasgow based company James Templeton & Co. Interestingly the carpet steers clear of the then fashionable geometric and often abstract inspired work that tended to dominate much of the carpet industry in the 1920s and certainly the 1930s. Brangwyn seems to have taken an artistic approach to the design, despite the number of years that he spent on various design projects. The resulting carpet design has much more in common with a fine art painting or a mural than it does with a decorative piece of design work. Brangwyn was particularly interested in traditional Persian and Afghan carpet design and decorative ideas, and it is perhaps this interest that also fed into the carpet design work.

This particular carpet was part of the 1930 Pollard Exhibition in London. Brangwyn had been commissioned to design all of the interior furnishings and accessories including ceramics, glassware, lighting, textiles and carpets for a living room, dining room and two bedrooms. This would have been a fairly tall order for one designer, but Brangwyn seemed to take it all in his stride.

Brangwyn has left a considerable legacy of both fine art and decorative design work. In his career he was able to span a large variety of mediums and decorative styles from Arts & Crafts, through to Art Nouveau, Art Deco and beyond. The fact that he did most of this single-handedly is testament to his stamina, but perhaps says much more about his passion for the fine and decorative arts that was to last his whole career and lifetime.

No comments:

Post a Comment