Branwhite, Charles (1817-1880)

Branwhite, Charles (1817-1880)

British artist Charles Branwhite was an extremely accomplished watercolour and oil painter. He is known predominantly for his winter landscape scenes capturing the British countryside, as well as some views of Swiss vistas.

Branwhite was initially trained by his father in the art of sculpture and began his early career creating busts of eminent men in his hometown of Bristol. It was in his twenties on a walking holiday when, inspired by the dramatic Welsh landscape, Branwhite pivoted into the painterly profession.

Branwhite was fascinated with capturing the bleak beauty of winter’s dominion. There is a heavy layer of realism over his work, in line with the popular style of the day. He often depicts labourers struggling through the wintery weather. Branwhite was praised for his attention to shade and light, stark sheets of snow transforming into ominous caverns of shadow where light diminishes.

Complimenting this, however, is a flurry of the romantic. Branwhite was influenced by the Bristol School, a collection of painters working in Bristol at the time. The most preeminent of these artists was William James Müller (1812-1845). Müller was a close friend of Branwhite, and the atmospheric, ethereal tradition of the Bristol School is evident in Branwhite’s work. A setting sun crowns a view with a yolk-like brightness of colour.

Branwhite’s work was well received in Britain, and he exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy among other institutions. He also became a member of the Society of Painters in Water Colours.

A humorous incident occurred when the Belgian government wanted to purchase one of Branwhite’s works for their national collection. A prestigious honour, however, a mix-up occurred, and the painting desired by the Belgian government had already been sold to a customer in Britain. This was awkwardly explained by Branwhite, but, as newspapers reported, this was also incredibly flattering for the artist.

His work was so in demand even governments were haggling for a piece.

Family ties were interwoven with a love for art. As well as Branwhite’s father, his brother and sister were watercolour painters. His sister would go on to marry Müller’s son, and Branwhite’s brother sculpted Müller’s image. Branwhite’s own son was also an accomplished landscape painter.

Upon his death, local papers praised his legacy and noted that the ‘breadth and vigour’ of his works was not diminished in his final years and that his ‘powers were as keen as ever down to the very last.’

1817

Born in Bristol.

1837

Went on a walking tour of Wales, where he discovered his love of watercolours.

1837-1838

Won two silver medals for bas-reliefs at the Society of Arts, London.

1843

Went on a walking tour of Switzerland.

1843-1857

Exhibited at the British Institute.

1845-1856

Exhibited at the Royal Academy.

1849

Elected an associate of the Society of Painters in Water Colours.

1852-1852

Won awards from the Art Union of Glasgow.

1871

Elected an honorary member of the Society of Painters in Water Colours.

1880

Died in Bristol.

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