Exhibiting the Island's History

The Brannons

The majority of the exhibits are the work of the prolific self-taught artist-engraver George Brannon (1784-1860) Born in Ireland, he later moved to the Isle of Wight from London at the age of 25 and published the first edition of Vectis Scenery, his best-known book, in 1821. It contained 28 of his distinctive views of the Island, printed from copper plates.

The copper was replaced by steel for his later engravings, and this, together with Brannon‘s increasing experience and dexterity in the art is reflected in the noticeably higher quality of the later works.

Nonetheless, the initial engravings have their own fascination, not least because the early 19th-century scenes depict an island about to undergo dramatic transformation in the Victorian era; the oldest known print, a view of Morton Manor (which features in the exhibition), dates back to around 1816.

This exhibition includes over 200 original engravings by George Brannon and two of his sons, Alfred and Philip, published in the various editions of Vectis Scenery.

His grandson, also George, founded the Isle of Wight Press, now the County Press in 1884, one of the most thriving weekly papers in the country.

George Brannon, The Man

Brannon‘s origin and, indeed, much of his life are steeped in mystery. He was born in Ireland in 1784, married at Alverstoke (Gosport) on the 17th of March 1812, and died at Wootton on 23rd March 1860. Of his nine children (six surviving to maturity, two only just), sons Alfred and Philip are best known. Both contributed prints to Vectis Scenery from 1838. Alfred eventually took over the family business, whereas his brother settled on the mainland and originated a series of guides to Bournemouth, Corfe Castle, Netley Abbey, and Southampton (watercolours by Philip Brannon; artist, architect, civil engineer and inventor, sometimes occur in the art dealers' catalogues).

We cannot be sure when George Brannon first resided on the island. Some evidence is provided by his own publications, taking the form of a statement in a preface or an advertisement. For example, “ the Artist has been now above twenty years an inhabitant of the Isle of Wight ”. Assuming such statements can be relied upon, a preliminary examination of them leads us to the conclusion that he might have initially settled on the Isle of Wight c.1809. Brannon ultimately occupied ‘Landscape Cottage’ on Wootton Common, where he engraved, printed and published his various works, the perfect example of a cottage industry. The family home is illustrated in this exhibition.

In 1857, at the age of 73, George Brannon retired, although he continued to produce the occasional engravings, two of which appeared posthumously.

This collection truly displays the Island history and changes over the 19th century.

We encourage you to visit us and experience it yourself.
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You can also purchase the Brannon DVD, which explains more about the history of the engravings.