Frank Bramley 1857-1915

Artist biography

English painter. He attended Lincoln School of Art from 1873 to 1878. He studied from 1879 to 1882 with Charles Verlat at the Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerp, as did other future Newlyn school painters such as Fred Hall (1860–1948), Thomas Cooper Gotch and Norman Garstin. After a period in Venice (1882–4) Bramley joined the artists' colony in Newlyn, Cornwall, where he stayed until 1895. The Newlyn school became known for its Cornish genre scenes and plein-air approach, but Domino (1886; Cork, Crawford Mun. A.G.) typifies Bramley's initial interest in interiors with varied natural and artificial light effects, as well as his involvement with tonal harmonies and the surface qualities of the square brush.

Like Garstin and Hall, Bramley tried to balance his own aesthetic concerns with an emotional and narrative content that would appeal to the general public. A Hopeless Dawn (1888; London, Tate; see England, fig. 21) successfully combined formal strengths with the dramatic and emotional power that Domino lacked. It was purchased by the Chantrey Bequest trustees and established Bramley's reputation. In the early 1890s his paint became brighter, thicker and looser. His subject-range narrowed to portraits, rural genre paintings – often symbolic and quiet scenes of the elderly reflecting on their past. Bramley regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1884 to 1912. He was made an ARA in 1894 and an RA in 1911. He settled in Grasmere, Westmorland (now Cumbria), in 1900.

C. Hiatt: ‘Mr Frank Bramley, ARA, and his Work', Mag. A. (1903), pp. 54–9
Artists of the Newlyn School, 1880–1900 (exh. cat. by C. Fox and F. Greenacre, Newlyn, Orion Gals, 1979), pp. 162–71
Painting in Newlyn, 1880–1930 (exh. cat. by C. Fox and F. Greenacre, London, Barbican A.G., 1985)
B. Cogger Rezelman: ‘Frank Bramley's Primrose Day: A Disraeli Tribute and Artistic Gamble', Vict. Rev., xvii/1 (1991), pp. 51–77


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