To bear witness to any single artist’s creative output can be inspiring enough in and of itself. One must only take a look around at the outstanding pieces brought to life by geniuses all over the world to realise what talents exist in abundance everywhere.
The awe and wonder must, therefore, increase when any of these artistic wonder-workers come together, and generate their work in collaboration with each other. The insight, creativity and graft, which go into the resultant piece cause that piece to reach new levels of excellence.
There are many artistic double-acts who demonstrate this point. One such example includes Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956) and Yoshijiro Urushibara (1888–1953). The impact that this pairing has had on Japanese art is undeniable, for the prints they created together to highlight their talents.
The Anglo-Welsh artist Brangwyn had a long-felt interest in Japanese paintings and prints. It was, therefore, a good job, both for his own sake and for the sake of the world of art, that he met Urushibrara in the 1910s. This meeting proved to be the catalyst through which was spawned many Japanese-influenced prints, which fused together the out-there style of Brangwyn and the more subtle techniques used in Japanese culture.
One of the more notable collaborative pieces created by this partnership can be found in The Devil’s Bridge, St Gothard’s Pass (c. 1924), depicting a number of figures precariously attempting to cross a frightfully narrow rocky path, leading towards a steep and jagged precipice up which more figures appear to be climbing. In the background is what seems to be a far more stable-looking (and, unsurprisingly, more populated) bridge, holding the perilous nature of the bridge in the foreground in great contrast.
In honour of Brangwyn’s 150th anniversary, the William Morris Gallery in London is currently hosting an exhibition of his Japanese-themed work. The aforementioned exhibition, titled Sheer Pleasure- Frank Brangwyn and the Art of Japan, includes prints that were donated by Brangwyn to the gallery. There are other Japanese artists who are being featured, including Utagawa Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai. However, it is Brangwyn and his most notable partner, Urushibrara, who are taking centre stage.
Solitary efforts can certainly produce works of genius. However, the chance to enhance any piece of work through the contributions of another creative person should never be sniffed at. If Brangwyn and Urushibrara and their excellent Japanese prints prove anything, it’s that when two talented people join together, greatness can be achieved.
—Luke Mayo, Correspondent (Art)