Old Hammersmith

Old Hammersmith by Sir Frank Brangwyn RA RWS PRBA HRSA, 1867-1956. Etching. Source: Sparrow, Frank Brangwyn and His Work, facing 200.

Commentary by Walter Shaw Sparrow

Keen vigour accompanies coaxing research and patient and elusive tact, while charming us with a magnificent display of light, shade and tone, free from assertive accents. Workmen lounge along a good foreground and in open-air shade; others are busy with their horses in a sunny middle distance; and behind them a fine old house, partly shaded by a fan-shaped tree, is transformed into a factory, now beautifully aglow with sunlight. All is excellent: rude where rudeness tells, delicate where delicacy is needed, as among the horses; and note also how happy and lofty is the feeling with which that house is understood. And the tree is very well seen and felt, and the sky has lightness and mystery. One has an inkling that Brangwyn not only loved but feared this intricate and sunny motif — feared it enough to treat it with tender patience and respect, lest he should lose it in a fiasco. Can he return too often to this technical inspiration? I think not. It chastens two of his familiar qualities — formidable dash and insistent push — as in "Men Rowing on a Lighter" (No. 73) and "The Sawyers" (No. 43). An artist multiplies himself by being unlike his usual appeal. [131]

Brangwyn, in 1906, discovered his own etched style by producing his "Old Houses at Ghent" (No. 64), and when, two years later, by achieving "Old Hammersmith" (No. 128), he improved this happy style — a duet between his own manner in pointwork and in printing — we all got from him a standard by which to judge his later etched work; and a standard all the more valuable to us, and to himself also, because it was not hard and fast, not mannered and procrustean, but supple and plastic, and rich with possibilities. [153]

Formatting and text by George P. Landow. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit Internet Archive and the Ontario College of Art and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Sparrow, Walter Shaw. Frank Brangwyn and His Work. New York: Dana Estes, 1911. Internet Archive version of a copy in the Ontario College of Art. Web. 28 December 2012.

Last modified 28 December 2012