The Torn Shirt, 1900-06

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Frank Brangwyn was in 1867, in Bruges, Brussels. His father was an ecclesiastical architect and textile designer, and Brangwyn received his initial artistic instruction in his father’s workshop. Brangwyn pursued formal training at the South Kensington Art Schools, London; influences included William Morris (1834-1896), with whom he had worked, and Italian Renaissance art.

His international reputation began to flourish in the 1890s, and after 1900 Brangwyn became increasingly occupied with large scale mural commissions in Britain and the US. In his later years his art was dominated by religious themes. He was knighted in 1941, and died at 89 in 1956.

The Torn Shirt is a study for a figure in Brangwyn’s large scale oil panel, Modern Commerce, 1900-06, at the Royal Exchange Building, London. The male figure, squared up for transfer, has been faithfully transcribed in the lower right part of Modern Commerce. In the muscular figure, Brangwyn has created a virile, heroic form that has its antecedents in the Italian High Renaissance. The figure, drawn from life, is built up with rich contours, parallel and cross hatching lines, and the use of white highlights. Brangwyn’s focus is on the sheer physicality of his subject; his face pointedly turned away, underlines his machine-like working power.

Brangwyn, as in many of his other scenes of industrial England, transforms the manual worker, supporting the mercantile might of the Empire, into a god-like figure.

Detail

Frank Brangywn (1867-1956)
The Torn Shirt, 1900-06
Conte on paper signed lower right: F B
45.3 x 35.3 cm MD49

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