John Francis Branegan

Marine Painter

John Branegan was born about 1840 possibly in Dublin. He married Margaret Maher in the Pro Cathedral, Dublin in 1865, having four children from the marriage. Two of his children, James and Margaret, remained unmarried; Arthur married but had no children. His youngest daughter Kate married Robert Hutton, a successful Whitby ironmaster and they had twelve children, some of whom are still alive and have provided much of the information in this document.

Little is known of Branegan, but it would appear that soon after his marriage he settled in London making his living as a painter, residing for some time at 118, Stanhope Street and later at 9, St. Thomas’ Gardens (Greaves 1895). Paintings from this period which are recorded or have been located were all connected with the sea; marine scenes in early morning or evening light depicted in such examples as ‘Morning on the Thames’ and ‘Rochester Harbour’. Between 1871 and 1875 he had three pictures accepted for exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts and one at the Suffolk Street Galleries of the Royal Society of British Artists

It is probable that he moved to Whitby about 1880 or 1881 as he exhibited a number of pictures in the Yorkshire Fine Art Exhibition at Leeds in 1882 and the following year in the Yorkshire Fine Art and Industrial Institution Exhibition in York. Catalogues for these exhibitions record a number of Whitby scenes which are perhaps typified by the example located ‘First Active Service of the ‘Robert and Mary Ellis’, Whitby September 21st 1882′. The exhibition catalogues record Branegan as being in residence at 7, Cliff Street, a small cottage on the east side of the town where he lived until after 1890 (Directory of North Yorkshire 1890). After this period he probably moved to live with his daughter Kate in Esk Terrace on the West side of the River.

His children carried on the adventurous and artistic tradition of their father. James, the eldest, emigrated to Australia, enlisted with the Australian Forces in the First World War and was blinded at Armentiers. Arthur, the second child, lived at Harrow Hill in London and was a boy chorister of some note singing with such artists as Sir Charles Santley and Hermann Ludwig. He later became a stained glass window artist, apparently travelling widely on the continent in his professional capacity. Margaret, the eldest daughter, remained in London although making frequent visits to Whitby travelling in the S.S. ‘Claudia’, which made regular trips between London and the Tees. His youngest daughter, Kate who, as previously mentioned, married Robert Hutton, was also a painter although not of the professional standing of her father. It is interesting to note that Robert Hutton, the ironmaster, was particularly interested in shipping and was responsible for the building of the first two paddle tugs at Whitby, one of which is partially illustrated on the left of the picture ‘Whitby Regatta 1885’ (WHITM:PEF299)

It was the painting of the sea, which particularly fascinated Branegan, either in powerful stormy scenes or peaceful atmospheric paintings. Left completely with the sea in a painting, composition and rhythm are strong, as the examples of DISABLED BRIGANTINE (WHITM:PEF297), WRECK OF BRIG OFF WHITBY (WHITM:PEF303) and WHITBY (WHITM:PEF304).