The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Frank Bramley, 1857-1915

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1857.05.06
Place of Birth: Sibsey, Lincolnshire
Date of Death: 1915.08.10
Place of Death: Chalford, Gloucester


Frank Bramley was a genre and portrait painter.


Bramley studied at Lincoln School of Art from 1873 until 1878, and then with Charles Verlat at the Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerp from 1879 until 1882. In 1882 he travelled to Venice, where JW had been in 1879 to 1880. Bramley stayed until 1884. In 1884 he joined the artists’ colony in Newlyn, Cornwall, remaining there until 1895.

Unlike the Newlyn school's preoccupation with Cornish genre scenes executed en plein-air, Bramley’s initial interest lay in interior scenes and artificial light. Like JW, he was concerned with aesthetic appeal and tonal harmony, but texture was a further concern for him, and he made experimentions with a square brush (see Domino, 1886; Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork). Works like A Hopeless Dawn (1888; Tate Gallery, London), which were intended to appeal to a wider audience with their emotional and narrative content, were anathema to JW whose writings and art sought to critique the modern sentimental subject.

Nevertheless, in 1889 Bramley was apparently amongst those considered for invitations to a dinner held at the Criterion in London to celebrate the first class medal awarded to JW in Munich and the Cross of St Michael of Bavaria which had also been presented to JW. However, it appears that he did not attend, and possibly his name was dropped for some reason from the initial list.

In the early 1890s Bramley's paint became brighter, looser and more impastoed and his subject matter narrowed to portraits and rural genre paintings. He regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1884 to 1912. He was made an A.R.A. in 1894 and R.A. in 1911. He settled in Grasmere, Westmorland in 1900.


Hiatt, C., 'Mr Frank Bramley, ARA, and his Work', Magazine of Art, 1903, pp. 54-59; Fox, C. and F. Greenacre, Painting in Newlyn, 1880-1930, exhibition catalogue, Barbican Art Gallery, London, 1985; Rezelman, B. Cogger, 'Frank Bramley's Primrose Day: A Disraeli Tribute and Artistic Gamble', Victorian Review, vol. 17, 1991, pp. 51-77; McConkey, Kenneth, Memory and Desire: Painting in Britain and Ireland at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, London, 2002; Rezelman, Betsy Cogger, 'Frank Bramley', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 31 July 2002).