Carnarvon Castle by Frank Brangwyn

© the estate of Frank Brangwyn / Bridgeman Images 

This lively, rapidly painted oil painting of Caernarfon castle is by Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956). During his lifetime he was one of the most famous artists in the world, painting distinctive, colourful, fluid paintings and acclaimed murals. Carnarvon Castle is not dated but is thought to have been produced in the 1920s.

Brangwyn painted at least three versions of the castle, despite apparently never having visited Caernarfon. The lack of detail in the castle, and the focus on the dynamic foreground figures, the boat and the trees support this. The watercolour painting of Caernarfon Castle in the Worthing Museum and Art Gallery is closest in composition to this oil painting.

Frank Brangwyn was born in Bruges in 1867: his English father was an ecclesiastical designer and cabinet maker, and his mother was Welsh. The Buckinghamshire family name had been changed from Brangwin to Brangwyn by his grandfather. The family returned to London in 1874.  In 1882 Brangwyn became an apprentice draughtsman to William Morris and without any formal fine art training he was rapidly recognised as an independent artist. In 1885, aged 17, his first painting was accepted by the Royal Academy.

He was also a prolific print maker, illustrator and designer of furniture and ceramics. Bangor University Archives has a collection of original drawings, prints and books that Brangwyn donated before his death, and Storiel has a Royal Doulton plate and tureen that he designed in the 1930s. He also donated his work to institutions across Europe, for example to the Albertina in Vienna – he was one of the founding members of the Viennese Secession Movement. His contribution to European Art in the first half of the 20th century is no longer widely recognised.

This painting was bought in 2002 with funding from the Friends of Bangor Museum and Art Gallery (now Storiel), Bangor University, the National Arts Collection Fund and the Victoria and Albert Museum.