Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance
The artistic heart of West Cornwall's history

Eyes and No Eyes

Oil on canvas

Frank Bramley

1857 - 1915

Frank Bramley is the artist behind one of the Newlyn School's most iconic images - the painting 'A Hopeless Dawn', purchased for the nation in 1888 and now in the Tate collection.



Frank Bramley - 1857 - 1915

Frank Bramley studied at Lincoln School of Art from 1873 to 1878, and then with Charles Verlat in Antwerp from 1879 to 1882. In 1882 he travelled to Venice, where he stayed until 1884 when he joined the burgeoning artists’ colony in Newlyn.

While other Newlyners at this time mostly worked ‘en plein-air’, Bramley specialised in interior scenes. He came to fame, and confirmed the celebrity of the Newlyn School, when his painting A Hopeless Dawn was lauded at the Royal Academy in 1888, and was purchased by the Chantry Bequest for the nation (Tate Gallery, London). The painting’s strong emotional and narrative content, together with its aesthetic appeal and tonal harmony, make this one of the most admired Newlyn School works to this day.

During his time in Newlyn, Bramley was a particular exponent of the ‘square brush technique’, using the flat of a square brush to lay the paint on the canvas in a jigsaw pattern of brush strokes, giving a particular vibrancy to the paint surface. In the early 1890s, his palette became brighter and his handling of the paint looser and more impastoed, while his subject matter narrowed to portraits and rural genre paintings. In 1895, he moved away from Newlyn, later settling in Grasmere, Westmorland (the Lake District), in 1900.

Bramley regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1884 to 1912 and was made an ARA in 1894 and RA in 1911.

Thanks to funding from the Art Fund, V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of Penlee House, Penlee House acquired the Frank Bramley painting 'Eyes and No Eyes' in 2009.