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Frank Bramley, R.A. (1857-1915)
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Frank Bramley, R.A. (1857-1915)

'When the blue evening slowly falls'

Details
Frank Bramley, R.A. (1857-1915)
'When the blue evening slowly falls'
signed and dated 'FRANK BRAMLEY 1909' (lower right) and further indistinctly signed, inscribed and numbered '2./"When the blue/Evening slowly falls"/Frank Bramley/Tongue Ghyll/Grasmere' (on the artist's label attached to the stretcher)
oil on canvas
35¾ x 30¼ in. (90.8 x 76.8 cm.)
Provenance
By descent in the family of the artist's wife until
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 21 December 1967, lot 364 (one of two in lot).
with The Fine Art Society, London.
The late Hon. Christopher Lennox-Boyd; Christie's, London, 11 July 2013, lot 14.
Literature
Royal Academy Pictures, 1911, p. 5, illustrated.
Pall Mall Magazine 'Extra', Pictures of 1911, 1911, p. 32, illustrated.
'Black and White' Handbook to the Royal Academy, 1911, 1911, p. 32, illustrated.
R. Dircks, 'The Royal Academy: The Pictures', The Art Journal, 1911, p. 170.
Exhibited
London, Royal Academy, 1911, no. 784.
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Lot Essay

Moving to Grasmere in 1900, Frank Bramley exchanged the cottage interior for the Edwardian villa, as his primary mise-en-scène. He nevertheless remained fascinated by contrasting interior and exterior light sources as dusk fell in the drawing room on a summer's evening. Here in 1909, a pet Pomeranian named 'Philip', that he had painted on other occasions, disturbs the reverie of a woman robed in emerald. It is likely, given the work's provenance, that the woman is the painter's wife, Katherine.

Bramley married Katherine Graham (b. 1872), an art student, in 1891, while he was working in Newlyn. She was the daughter of the Borders historian, John Graham, J.P. of Huntingstile, Grasmere. Four years after their marriage, the couple moved to Droitwich in the West Midlands, but by 1900 had settled at Tongue Ghyll, in Grasmere, where they remained until a few years before the painter's death in 1915. Little is known about Bramley's life during his years in the Lakes, although they lived close to Katherine's younger sister, Elizabeth, who in 1900 had married Charles Chalmers, a colonel in the Royal Scots (Lothian) Regiment. Chalmers became Bramley's most important patron in the early years of the Century, owning works such as Friends (1908) and For the Rose was Beauty, as well as his family portraits. The Chalmers appeared regularly in Bramley's work, along with their daughter, Helen, one of whose portraits accompanied the present picture at the Royal Academy in 1911. Bramley's Mr and Mrs Chalmers (unlocated) was shown at the Royal Academy in 1902, while Helen Graham Chalmers and her mother (private collection), appeared in 1908. Bramley's two other exhibits in 1911 were portraits: Helen, Daughter of Charles Chalmers Esq. (no. 142) and Marjorie, (no. 275), a head study of a local girl, Marjorie Bennett. A further family portrait, Fergus, Son of Mr Walter Graham, appeared at the Royal Academy in 1906. These two paintings marked Bramley's election as a full Academician.

By this stage the painter had completely abandoned the systematic square brushwork of his youth and his handling in works such as Delicious Solitude (1909, unlocated) was more painterly. This, with its subject ranged to the right of the canvas, parallel to the picture plane, could almost be considered a companion piece for the present work.

In the latter, the book has fallen into the reader's lap as she gazes towards the garden. Bramley's drawing room reveries were in tune with those of George Clausen and George Henry - two other early adherents of the 'square brush' method associated with Bastien-Lepage - but his inclination towards narration remained. He now adopted the blue and mauve shadows of the Impressionists, and for this he was sometimes criticized (R. Thomas (ed.), Frank Bramley RA, 1857-1915, 1999 (exh. cat., Usher Gallery, Lincoln), p. 38). It may well be why the cautious and conservative Art Journal described Bramley's work as 'individual and interesting' in 1911 (R. Dircks, 'The Royal Academy: The Pictures', The Art Journal, 1911, p. 170). Indeed, like Clausen, he adopted large windows giving on to a cool crepuscular garden scene as a backdrop. So successful was this setting that the painter returned to it with A Truce, (1912, Royal Institution of Cornwall) in 1912, a work that closely relates to Confidences (1911, Royal Academy of Arts, London), his Diploma picture of the previous year.

The present canvas precedes this sequence - one that encapsulates the Edwardian middle class ennui. Narrative considerations, as with Fireside Tales (see lot 109) and A Hopeless Dawn (Tate Britain), are never far from the surface. Academy visitors might be expected to speculate on the loneliness of Bramley's model, a young woman whose reverie is unbroken by the appearance of her lapdog - demanding immediate attention. The night is falling, the shadows lengthening and the book is abandoned in a moment of uneasy wakefulness as 'the blue evening slowly falls'.
KMc.

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