Alfred Fontville De Breanski Jr
(1877 - 1957)
Alfred Fontville De Breanski, Jr. was active/lived in United Kingdom, England. Alfred De Breanski Jr is known for sunlit landscape and garden scene painting.
Alfred Fontville de Breanski was born into a family of painters.
Not only was his father the highly regarded Victorian landscape
painter, Alfred de Bréanski, Sr., but his mother was the Welsh
painter, Annie Roberts. In addition, his uncle Gustave de Bréanski was
a noted seascape painter, and his aunt Julie had also trained as an
artist. Working as a painter, then, was something of a family
business. Born in London in 1877, the young de Breanski was the oldest
son in a family of seven children. Naturally, he began to study art
early in life, training with his father and uncle along with his
younger brother, Arthur. He then enrolled at St. Martins School of Art,
the prestigious London institution now known as Central St. Martins
College of Art and Design.
Because of his father's work as a landscape painter, the family
often traveled to Wales where the scenery was especially appealing—and
of course, Annie Roberts de Bréanski's family was there. This provided
an opportunity for the children to test their abilities as landscape
artists and to master the skills they would later need to establish
their own careers. A. F. de Breanski's early works are,
unsurprisingly, in the style of his father—luminous naturalistic
landscapes of Welsh mountains or Scottish Highlands.
Because of the similarity of their names, a note must be added about
the signatures used by the elder and younger Alfred de Breanski. In
general, the elder painter used his full name, including an accent aigu
over the "é" in his last name, while his son did not. Alfred Jr. often
signed his work as A. F. de Breanski, sometimes including "Jr." after
his last name; occasionally he also used A. Fontville rather than
Breanski. The system wasn't foolproof, but it did aid in clarifying
which member of this talented family was the source of a particular
By the 1890s, de Breanski ventured to France to "finish" his
artistic education. There he met the elderly James McNeil Whistler and
also explored the incredibly diverse arts community of belle époque
Paris. The influence of this sojourn is evident in his increasingly
Symbolist treatment of his characteristic landscapes, as in Evening at Loch Vennaeker
where naturalism has evolved into a more abstract composition intended
as a private meditative image. Simultaneously, he absorbed the
Impressionist's emphasis on unadulterated color and stenographic
brushwork. Fishing Fleet in the Harbour, for example,
owes a debt to the work of Alfred Sisley and Claude Monet in its
concentration on the effects of light on water, and the clearly visible
brushstrokes defining the scene.
On his return to London, de Breanski
began to display his paintings at the annual metropolitan exhibitions,
both at the Royal Academy and at the Royal Society of British Artists,
a more unbiased exhibition venue than the conventional Academy.
Beginning in 1905, he enjoyed considerable success with a series of
garden paintings, this time using an Impressionistic approach to
technique to depict the traditional picturesque elements of English
garden design. Included in this popular group of paintings at the Royal
Academy exhibitions were: A Cottage Garden, 1907; Summer, 1912; Willows, 1914; and Autumn Gold,
1917. Although not documented as an intentional series on the theme
of English gardens, it seems likely that de Breanski was influenced by
the well-known series paintings produced by Monet beginning in the
1880s. In addition, Monet himself lived in London for brief periods in
1901 and 1904-05 while working on a series of paintings featuring the
Thames River and the Houses of Parliament, a fact that was duly
recorded in the local newspapers.
In large part because of the warm
critical and popular reception of de Breanski's garden paintings, he
was approached by the Underground Electric Railways Company to design
at least two posters for the new London transit system. Both of these
30 x 20 inch images were intended to remind Londoners that the beauty
of parks, gardens and forests were readily accessible to everyone
simply by hopping on the trams. Twickenham by Tram
illustrates two swans in the foreground of a bucolic pond while modest
slips for rowboats dot the shoreline in the distance; broad flat areas
of golden ink and delicate cream-colored reflections suggest a bright
sunny day in suburban Twickenham—surely a destination that all
right-minded Londoners would want to explore. Likewise, Kew Gardens by Tram showcases the renowned botanical gardens there, spotlighting the water lilies in full bloom in the foreground.
Printed in 1915 by Johnson, Riddle
& Company, Ltd., these decidedly art nouveau designs were posted on
the front of buses and on the side panels of the new trams, thus
reinforcing the concept that high quality art was not restricted to
salons, academies and museums, but available to all people every day.
With these posters, de Breanski positioned himself firmly in the modern
movement of the early twentieth century, dedicated to unifying
so-called "high art" with "commercial art," very much in the spirit of
the Parisian poster artists, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Jules
During the 1920s de Breanski continued
to paint landscapes and garden images although by then his work began
to seem somewhat old-fashioned. In more recent times, there has been a
reassessment of his work as scholars begin to explore historical
developments beyond the modernist canon.
Written by Janet Whitmore, Ph.D.
Government Art Collection, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, London
London Transport Museum
Watford Museum, Watford, UK
Alfred Fontville De Breanski was one of seven children born to the prolific British landscape painter, Alfred De Breanski Sr. (1852-1928). Though his paintings emanate those of his father in palette and subject matter, his landscapes are executed in a slightly less formal, coarser style.
His main body of work concentrates on the effects of sunlight on the Highland scenery at different times of the day, but between 1905 and 1920, De Breanski Jr. painted a series of English garden scenes done in a colourful, impressionistic style.
Although he usually signed his work A. F. de Breanski or Alfred de Breanski, Jun, his landscapes are sometimes confused with those of his father.
Alfred Fontville De Breanski exhibited several works during his lifetime at the Royal Academy and at the Royal Society of British Artists.