BRONTE, Patrick Branwell (1817-1848). Pencil drawing showing two figures outside a cottage, near a castle in a rural setting, signed and dated in pencil below, 'P.B. Bronté June 2 1829', and on the right 'P.B. Bronté', inscribed also on the left 'T. Bewick', on paper, 128 x 166mm (laid down, slightly discoloured, tiny hole filled in with white ink in sky above castle).
The drawing, executed when Branwell Brontë was 12 years old, is after an original by Thomas Bewick, published in A History of British Birds, vol.I (Containing the History and Description of Water Birds), London: 1816 (page 60). It shows two men greeting each other outside a tumbledown cottage, one leaning on a staff, the other carrying a load in a sack. A ruined castle stands in the background, with a small cottage and tree beside it.
The Brontë family owned several books illustrated with Thomas Bewick's delightful woodcuts, which were copied by Branwell and his sisters. It may have been in 1829 that they began to receive lessons in drawing and painting from John Bradley of Keighley, a well-known local artist, whose studio they frequently visited, and it was probably Bradley who encouraged them to copy Bewick's vignettes depicting human and animal life. The present drawing is one of five made by the Brontës after various illustrations in Bewick's work on water birds. Its whereabouts were previously unknown but it is published from a photograph in Christine Alexander's and Jane Sellars' The Art of the Brontës, Cambridge: 1995 (page 291).
Provenance: By descent from Sir William Robertson Nicoll (1851-1923), journalist and man of letters, who was an early president of the Brontë Society. He purchased the drawing from Martha Brown whom he visited in 1879, when he bought a number of Brontë relics from her.