Frank Bramley

Primrose Day


Not on display

Frank Bramley 1857–1915
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 502 × 351 mm
frame: 765 × 615 × 110 mm
Presented by Arthur Grogan 1985

Display caption

The title of this picture refers to the annual commemoration on 19 April of the death of the great Conservative statesman Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81) who was Prime Minister in 1868 and from 1874-80. Primroses were said to be his favourite flower. The girl has been collecting primroses in her hat; others are arranged in a vase on the table, above which is a print of Disraeli. Bramley's picture is also an exercise in the colour harmonies of yellow, white and brown. A leading Newlyn painter, he has used the square brush and horizontal strokes for which the Newlyn artists were famous. Bramley was a founder member of the NEAC but resigned in 1890 after a vicious review of his work by Sickert. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1911.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Frank Bramley 1857_1915

T03962 Primrose Day 1885

Oil on canvas 502 x 351 (19 3/4 x 13 13/16)
Inscribed 'FRANK BRAMLEY - | 1885 -' t.r. and "'PRIMROSE DAY -" FRANK BRAMLEY - | 1885 -' on back of canvas
Presented by Arthur Grogan 1985
Prov: ... ; anon. sale, Christie's 28 Jan. 1972 (47) £450 bt Arthur Grogan
Exh: Artists of the Newlyn School 1880-1900, Newlyn Art Gallery, May-June 1979, Plymouth City Art Gallery, June-July 1979, Bristol City Art Gallery, July-Sept. 1979 (54, repr.); on loan to Tate Gallery 1982-5; Painting in Newlyn 1880-1930, Barbican Art Gallery, July-Sept. 1985 (38, repr.)
Repr: Tate Gallery Report 1984-6, 1986, p.63 (col.).

After studying in Antwerp and Venice Bramley joined the colony of plein-air artists which had been growing up in the Cornish fishing village of Newlyn since the early 188os. Bramley, who had been preceded by Walter Langley, Stanhope Forbes and others, appears to have settled there in 1884 or early 1885. When he exhibited at the RA for the first time in 1884, submitting two Venetian subjects, he still gave his home address near Lincoln; his one exhibit in 1885, 'Everyone his Own Yarn', was sent in from Newlyn. Since it is dated 1885 and Primrose Day, the annual commemoration of the death of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, falls on 19 April, T03962 was presumably painted during Bramley's first spring in Newlyn.

Primrose Day took its name from what was supposedly Disraeli's favourite flower. Bramley includes a print of the statesman and three groups of primroses in his picture. The girl has evidently used her hat to collect the flowers. It is not known whether Bramley had any particular attachment to the memory of Disraeli. The fact that Ralph Todd, another Newlyn artist, also painted a 'Primrose Day' in 1885 (coll. Newlyn Orion Galleries; Barbican Art Gallery 1985, no.29, repr.) suggests that the two artists discussed the subject together and perhaps that they chose it mainly for its pictorial possibilities. These are more fully realized in Bramley's painting, which depends for its effect largely on colour harmonies of yellow, white and brown, than in Todd's, which is similar in composition but fussier in execution.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, p.11

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