Thursday, January 04, 2007

By special request, the Brangwyn Panels (I)

Within Swansea's Guildhall is the Brangwyn Hall, named after Sir Frank Brangwyn who painted the panels that decorate its walls.

Originally he was commissioned to paint them for the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) but in 1930, following the death of two of the peers who had supported his commission, he was forced to show the five panels he had completed. They caused controversy and were declined for being too colourful and lively.

In 1934 the panels were secured for Swansea's newly-built Guildhall.
The Guildhall was the setting for my school speech days and my university graduation, as well as concerts from Victor Borge and the Dunvant Male Voice Choir, and official banquets, so I've had plenty of opportunities to study the panels.

I have to admit that I've never been very taken with them. The colours are both garish and washed-out, and the canvases are jam-packed. It goes without saying - I hope you can tell from the first photo - that they're huge. And to my eye, they look almost amateur at times.

Dr Stu suggested that I did a personal view of them, so this lunchtime, accompanied by my snappy camera, that's just what I did. Bear in mind that I am neither a photographer nor an artist. Views expressed are not necessarily the views of the management.

My first impression, forming as I walked the corridor into the hall where are hung preliminary drawings, was that this was an enormously talented artist. The sketches were incredibly realistic and detailed.

My next impression as I really looked - rather than simply glancing - at one of the panels was how much attention had gone into the detail. From a caterpillar being watched by a frog to a rabbit being crept upon by an alligator.

And as for the happy cow!