Sir Frank Brangwyn first visited Cornwall in October 1887, sponsored by Frederick Mills, head of a firm of artist's colourmen, who had a reputation for supporting young artists. His arrival in Mevagissey marked a turning point in his career and followed the path of a growing number of other artists who were abandoning London in favour of rural or coastal areas, such as Newlyn or Staithes on the north east coast.
Brangwyn had not studied in Paris, but in early 1887 he moved to Wentworth Studios, Chelsea, where he came into contact with a group of Anglo-French painters known as the New English Arts Club. Artists such as the Staithes painter Ernest Dade, and Percy Jacomb Hood influenced Brangwyn and he was also greatly inspired by his near neighbour Henry La Thangue's dramatic square brush style of painting. When describing the artists at the Wentworth, and the nearby Trafalgar studios the contemporary critic Morley Roberts suggested that Brangwyn, 'the youngest artist in the road [had a] natural facility, as marvellous as his minute and retentive memory for the tones and minor details of nature' (Scottish Arts Review, vol. 2, 1889, p. 77).
It was not surprising then that on his arrival in Cornwall it was not artists such as John Brett or James Clarke Hook that Brangwyn affiliated himself with. Instead he turned to the younger generation of painters such as Stanhope Forbes, H.S. Tuke, and the Newlyn School. These artists were applying French techniques of accurate observation and plein air directness to the Cornish coast, and chose to break with traditional depictions of the sea.
Despite his affinity with Newylyn, Brangwyn chose not to settle there, and instead Fowey became the subject of some of his great Cornish pictures (see Christie's, London, 27 November 2002, lot 27; £182,650, the current auction record for the artist).
We are grateful to Libby Horner for her help in preparing this catalogue entry.