Building the New South Kensington Museum by Sir Frank Brangwyn RA RWS PRBA HRSA, 1867-1956. This watercolr is a study for the etching numbered 52 in Sparrow's list. Watercolor. “In the collection of Miss Hope.” Source: Sparrow, Prints and Drawings of Frank Brangwyn, facing 60. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Commentary by Walter Shaw Sparrow

Brangwyn is a master of scaffolding. To me his effects are better even than those of another master, Muirhead Bone, who is equally alert and wide-awake to the elusive architecture that tall and intricate scaffolds imply, and whose style is vivacious and meditative, if somewhat matter-of-fact. When Brangwyn shows how a bridge is built at Montauban, etching on a large plate direct from Nature (No. 221), or how the Victoria and Albert Museum looked in its embryonic stage, all the matter-of-fact goes up with huge scaffolds into rough poetry, and stress and strain of building enterprise are present with their weight and energy, their toilers and their mechanisms. And now we arrive at a deeply serious and meditated work, "A Coal Mine" (No. 59, 19 x 24 ¼ inches [the etching]). There has been an explosion and colliers in two groups — one in shade, and one in vivid light — are bearing away a wounded comrade. Two tree-trunks, upright, tall and boldly modelled, grow between us and a fine pithead, one part of which rises like scaffolding around a tower. Smoke in soft waves resembling shredded tow, as if from huge torches, curls up to the pithead and licks around its timber. Behind is a uniform sky with a technique that does not appear in any other Brangwyn. It seems to have been scratched horizontally with a fine metal comb, then bitten by mild acid; and from this process comes a monotone sky that looks well in a tragic episode [127-28]

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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. Prints and Drawings of Frank Brangwyn with Some Other Phases of His Art. London: John Lane, 1919. Internet Archive version of a copy in the Ontario College of Art. Web. 29 December 2012.

Last modified 29 December 2012