In 1927 the Brangwyn Portfolio was published by E F d’Alignan and Paul Turpin. Responding to a demand for high quality reproductions of his work Brangwyn himself chose 100 items which he felt were representative of his range of disciplines, including 12 original etchings and 3 original lithographs. The remaining 85 works were lithographic reproductions of watercolours, pastels and drawings produced by photomechanical means to which Brangwyn and his assistants added chalk or watercolour through stencils, giving the impression of original works. In fact such is the quality of these reproductions that they are frequently mistaken for the real thing – even by the top auction houses.
The folios, presented in a folder measuring 45 x 64cm, were produced in a limited edition of 120, costing 100 guineas each. Most were sold to Japan, America and Europe. Works produced before 1922 were numbered 1-50, before 1927 were numbered 51-100. Lead Worker was no. 47 in the series. The original drawing from which it was reproduced has not been located.
Brangwyn was a fervent believer that art should be accessible to all, regardless of wealth or station, which probably explains his interest in autographic processes. A mass produced printed work was obviously considerably more affordable for the general population than a one-off oil painting. Although Brangwyn cut corners ‚Äì he would rework an image in a variety of media and frequently recycled areas of etching plates to produce another print run ‚Äì he appeared to give his printed work as much attention to detail and composition as his original pieces.
His interest in printing processes is reflected in the fact that he was made an Associate and Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers in 1903; was the first President of the Society of Graphic Art in 1921, a group which exhibited both drawings and prints at the Royal Institute galleries from 1921 to 1940; and was an active member of the Senefelder Club founded in 1909, succeeding Joseph Pennell as President.
The original drawing for Study of Women (study for O1586) , 1890-1896, is in the collection of the British Museum. It was reproduced as the 79th plate of the Steinlen Portfolio.
We are grateful to Libby Horner for assistance. Lead Worker will appear as no.
(D1564) in her forthcoming Brangwyn Catalogue Raisonne