The Rescue by Frank Brangwyn - Warrington Museum and Art Gallery

The Rescue by Frank Brangwyn

The Rescue by Frank Brangwyn - Credit: Archant

A appreciation of The Rescue by Frank Brangwyn

Frank Brangwyn (1867-1958) was just 19 years old when he painted The Rescue.

He’d given up a promising job with the William Morris Company in London to move to Sandwich, then just a small fishing village on the Kent coast. He had no formal art training which gives his works a vibrant, dangerous edge missing from the work of many of his contemporaries.

Opting for a life eking out a subsistence living by selling sketches rather than the security of a London art school was a brave and unusual decision. But the time spent living above the Admiral Owen pub gave him an eye for a dramatic scene and blessed his work with a tension and urgency rarely seen in the work of one so young. Somehow in his small attic room he managed to find the resources and the space to paint this imposing and atmospheric work.

Exhibited at the Royal Academy to much critical acclaim it was bought by a ship-owner who may have had a particular sense of its authenticity. He was so impressed he paid for Brangwyn to sail in the Mediterranean so that he could find further inspiration.

The work depicts a ship that has encountered difficulties, most likely by hitting a sandbank. Visible in low tide but lurking dangerously under the surface at high tide, these ridges have long been the bane of sailors. A young crew member clutches the winch tightly; his bodyweight causes the rope to dip perilously close to the waves below. His bare feet are a symbol of his vulnerability; he looks back towards his older crew mates for encouragement but finds no paternal warmth in the eyes of these cynical sea-dogs.

The small fishing boat is no match for the mighty wrath of nature and the artist conveys this with the unnatural angle of the mast and its dominance of the forefront of the canvas. Brangwyn’s use of a restricted colour palette gives the treacherous weather conditions a stark, chilling reality.

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The Rescue spent much of last year on tour of China. It proved particularly popular in Beijing where it was seen by over 22,000 visitors.

Why you should see this painting

This dramatic canvas perfectly captures the perils of a life at sea and the bravery of those who risk their lives for others.

Where you can see this

Warrington Museum and Art Gallery is located on Museum Street, Warrington WA1 1JB and is open on weekdays from 10am to 4:30pm and on Saturdays from 10am to 4pm.

Photograph, copyright Warrington Museum and Art Gallery