Photograph held at the Tate Archive, Purchased by Tate Archive from Jim Sproule, Lin Sproule and Felicia France, November 2010.
Reference TGA 201023/3/2
Twenty Drawings by Felicia Browne Killed in Defence of the Spanish Republic, is the title of the booklet, which was sold in aid of the Artist’s International Association, at the posthumous exhibition of her works in London in October 1936. It was published by Lawrence and Wishart, who continue today as an independent radical publishing house.
A copy of the booklet is available to view online and I recommended it highly. It’s a beautifully curated selection of works and gives a fuller sense of Felicia’s visual reportage from Spain when viewed alongside those held in the Tate archive – although there is some crossover.
We’re treated to several exquisite examples of her animal drawings too. I am constantly delighted by Felicia’s hand. She appears to pluck forms from thin air to conjure them in a few quick and easy lines and smudges. This is incredibly difficult to achieve while appearing simple, and thus it is a finely honed gift.
There is also a two page appreciation, written anonymously, which is illuminating on Felicia as both person and artist, and appears to have been written by someone who knew her well – though not accurate in every detail (for example dates for her sessions at the Slade School of Art aren’t given in full). The portrait is of a complex and highly principled yet conflicted woman, whose true promise as an artist was tragically cut short. Although she was principally a sculptress none survives and we’re treated instead to one of the richest sketchbook practices I’ve seen.
The photograph at the top of the page shows medical vehicle in Spain, funded by AIA – this being the thematic link back to Felicia and the booklet, and I imagine it is the reason for it’s inclusion in the Tate archive. The description of the photograph includes the following suggestion.
“Presumably this is the ambulance bought with money raised from the auction of paintings by various British artists in Dec 1936.”
There are many stand out sentences in the appreciation, but none stay in the mind quite so much as this one:
“She died fighting her real enemy, but to some extent the enemy was inside her.”
Emotional complexity can be a burden, but it also bestows a richness of vision. The tumultuous energy of Felicia Browne brought forth to us in all her drawings provide us with a compelling sense of her presence.