Ian G Brennan
Sculptor and Woodcarver to the
British Royal Household
HMS Victory ‘Running before the Wind’ (47 inches long)
The sculpture was carved entirely from centuries old oak timbers removed from the lower gun deck of HMS Victory during Nelson’s 18th century Flagships restoration program from often battered centuries old oak beams containing the hull, sails and rigging just waiting to be released into the modern world. The Victory Sculpture safely hidden away within these oak beams on the Victory’s gun decks away from the noise, smoke and confusion as various Battles over the decades raging all around. If only walls could talk.
It was once said by Michelangelo with marble but is the same for wood. 'The sculpture was always inside the marble, it simply required releasing by the artist’
Sculptor Ian G Brennan has exhibited his work in such diverse venues including onboard the QE2 to the City of London. On the middle gun deck of HMS Victory, to the Queens room aboard the QE2, Art Galleries, Museums including as the Artist in Residence. During 1990 the Museum Service in England toured a large collection of Ian’s sculptures as a ‘one man’ exhibition to various museums throughout the year. Ian has also given Talks and Presentations displaying his work from the Queens room aboard the QE2, to Burlington House; Home of the Royal Academy of Arts. St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle to the Dungeons beneath the Castle. Since 1992 right through to 2023, Ian has been invited as the Guest speaker most years to give a number of Talks and Presentations on board. Not only onboard the QE2, but also the three latest Cunard Queens, talking about the various aspects of his work as a sculptor and how it all came about.
The wide contrast of Ian’s work ranges from highly detailed naturalistic one-off wood, silver and bronze sculptures and occasionally an idea for a sculpture arrives right out of the blue. Ian was working on a half-life size white resin ‘Mute Swan ‘master copy' for a bronze sculpture which had taken a few weeks to re-create in soft green casting wax.
‘Global Warming’ cast in bronze and frozen in time. 2020
This wax Swan was inadvertently left in his glass surrounded workshop on what later turned out to be the hottest ever recorded day in England, which rather unsurprisingly took ‘Mother Nature’ less than two hours to create the wax ‘Global Warming’ sculpture, greatly assisted during the past four plus decades and counting, by some of mankind’s tireless and relentless efforts to exasperate this whole sorry process; The elephant in the room. Although the original partially completed white resin Swan ‘master copy’ remained uninfected and a symbol of how things should have been, Now alongside the 'melted wax Swan a testament of what things may well become without more foresight and purpose and with the concept already well established with the Dali ‘melting watch’ paintings. The ‘On the Brink’ sculpture followed the following year.
On the Brink’ - bronze 2021
Ian’s sculptures have been placed in many diverse places including Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral, The Royal College of Arms, Museums, Government Buildings, Company Receptions, Board Rooms, Churches, The United Grand Lodge of England, HMS Victory, Cunard Ships, Public Spaces and both Stately and Private art collections from all over the World.
Ian’s sculptures have also been created for television programs and can be found on books and magazine covers and even Ian was even featured by Country Life as a ‘Living National Treasure’ and also on a set of Royal Mail Postage Stamps featuring Windsor Castle issued in 2017.
In 1989 Ian G Brennan was officially appointed ‘Sculptor to the Most Noble Order of the Garter and the Most Honourable Order of the Bath’ and since that time Ian spends an average of five months a year, every year, working on a wide variety of unique sculpture commissions in both wood and bronze for the British Royal Household.
For the most part these commissions from the Royal Household are quite evenly spaced out throughout the year which enables Ian to also continue working on his Private and Corporate commissions in wood, silver and bronze, although during HM The Queens Golden Jubilee year, Ian was working on sixteen totally unique sculptures throughout that period, many of which were placed on public display in St George’s Chapel when the Crowned Heads of Europe also joined HM The Queen for the Jubilee ‘Order of the Garter Ceremony’ held at Windsor Castle.
Currently there are over seventy of Ian’s sculptures on public display in the ancient and historic settings of St Paul’s Cathedral, Henry V11 Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey and St George’s Chapel, in Windsor Castle. These commissions vary from creating many of the Coronets and Crowns for both British and European royalty and an Emperor. As well as produced detailed high bas-relief and three dimensions sculptures depicting animals, birds and the human form along with the more traditional heraldic carvings which include Regal Lions, Unicorns and Mythical Beasts.
Ian delivered HRH The Princess Anne; The Princess’s Royals gilded Coronet he created for the Princess’s installation as a Lady of the Garter in 1994. HM the Queen in procession at Windsor Castle, from the Royal Apartments to St George's Chapel during the annual instillation of Royal Knights, Knights and Lady Companions of the Most Noble Order of the Garter
The Crest and Crowns for King Harold V1 of Norway – Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands – Prince William – King Felipe of Spain and King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands.
This unique ‘A piece of History’ collection includes four different wood sculptures carved directly from old often discarded objects and materials from historic British places including old oak beams recovered after the fire at Windsor Castle in 1992. The collection also includes sculptures created from original materials from HMS Victory, The Royal Yacht Britannia and the Cutty Sark. Also includes materials from a classic J Class Yacht, a Rolls Royce, a 1940’s Supermarine Spitfire and a carving from within a Dinosaur fossil from the Jurassic period found on a beach on the Isle of White.
‘One of the Few’ – for ‘England and Saint George’ - View from the Redoubtable’-Running before the Wind’- 'Fire in the Hall'
With everything on line in a digital world, there is value in physical history.
‘The original function for this material has long gone, but its history remains’.
These commissions are as diverse as one moment carving a large molar for outside a Dental surgery, to a wood carving of the ‘Risen Christ’ for inside a Church to then producing a Crown for a Queen to the 2000 Rugby Cup Final Trophy’ held at Murrayfield. Although Ian career as a professional sculptor started in the mid 1980’s working mainly as a realistic wildlife woodcarver but within a few years his fine detailed realistic sculptures depicting the human form were also being produced in wood, silver and bronze.
Many of a sculptor original ‘master copies are often modelled directly from wax or clay and are often then discarded or lost during the moulding process. Whilst many of Ian’s ‘master copies’ are carved directly in wood, marble-resin or plaster and most of these originals which can also be enlarged by the art foundry if required and the original wax, plaster and white marble/resin enables Ian to create the exceptionally fine detail when required.
Just a few examples of Ian plaster, wax and marble resin' master copies for casting in bronze. (6-16 inches high)
Three decades later in 2022 Ian was commissioned to create the bejewelled Coronet for Camila; The Queen Consort, which was then placed on display in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle alongside the Coronet Ian created almost three decades earlier for Princess Anne, The Princess Royal.
The Queen Consort Coronet in Ian’s studio and in position in St Georges Chapel Windsor.
During 2022 the wide variety of subjects Ian had been working on included adding further pieces to his unique 'A piece of history, collectiona. A bronze Bust and Golden Eagle in flight and a pair of relief carvings of Coats of Arms. Knights and ladies Crests for Westminster Abbey and Windsor Castle including a large carving of a Panther, along with creating the bejewelled gilded Coronet for the Queen Consort.
It is said a man who works with his hands is a labourer, a man who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman, a man who works with his hands, his head and his heart is an artist. In life Ian has been fortunate to have made a living doing all three.
Suzanne - www.contemporarysculptor.com
"I was not particularly interested in art at school and had many different jobs up into my mid-twenties when I finally decided to be a carpenter just like my
Grandad, until fate decided otherwise, when in my mid-thirties a fire totally destroyed my once thriving cabinet making a business I had build up after ten years of hard work and long hours just as I was about to expand into a larger workshop with a full order book and take on extra staff and then realising I had made a silly mistake with renewing my business insurance policy, subsequently left me uninsured. I was left standing in the blackened rubble as Dawn was about to rise amongst the still smoking burnt out workshop along with the dozen or so of large three-phase woodworking machines that only the day before were busily and rather noisily earning their keep along yet another bag full of fresh bedding for next door's rabbits.
I found myself, with no stock, machinery, tools or a workshop to put them in even if I had. Waiting customers who had paid stage and final payments for their recently completed furniture, including a solid pine kitchen corner seating unit and table. A fully fitted solid oak kitchen and the remaining solid mahogany galley units recently completed for the classic J Class yacht Velsheda. All were highly polished and just waiting delivery, but now just a pile of blackened burnt embers still glowing from the heat of the intense fire and with every gust of wind, blew high into the night sky like tiny Chinese lanterns.
Being self-employed found myself with no prospects of earning any income anytime soon along with a five-figure overdraft and a Bank that I soon discovered, patience was not a virtue who strongly advised me to take my overdraft elsewhere as they no longer wished to lend their no doubt ample funds, with the likes of me.
Warsash, 7th May 1984 Warsash, 7th May 2005
If only I could have known on that fateful day of the fire on the 7th May 1984 when I was digging amongst the burnt out remains of my workshop and career trying to find something, anything that could be salvaged from the fire, to use or sell I would
discover the inspiration for a totally new career amongst the blackened rubble of my old workshop that was slowly day by day, being turned into the local tip and that exactly 21 years to the very day later I would instead be standing in the St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, exhibiting a selection of my wood and bronze sculptures. Along with almost thirty other sculptures these being commissioned by the royal household now placed upon the walls of the historic medieval chapel, having been invited to give
a 'Talk' about my new career as a professional sculptor and woodcarver, that everything would work out for the best in the end. Things might not have been quite so worrying at the time; but you don’t do you.
However, if in 1984 I had simply renewed my business insurance correctly like most people tend to do and have done so in the past. I would have simply replaced all my tools, machines and timber and with the insurance and moved into a new workshop with electricity and especially a roof. Take on staff to help with my then full order book and simply start again and as a consequent all the sculptures shown here and all the hundreds of sculptures not shown here, would most likely never have existed.
Neither would have the first draft of my potential Journal/autobiography (ohwhatnow.co.uk) currently underway and shortly much of it will be added to this page which will outline many of these moments both good and bad and there were many along the way, to try and analyse, in my case anyway, what difference all or any of the incidents, accidents and hiccups, along with lucky breaks which fortunately as it turned out all happened in the correct time and sequence to each other, in which all have played a part in my particular scheme of things, to help build a career as a professional sculptor I never realised I was capable of doing for a living for almost four decades. To see if any of it stacks up, so I have outlined just a few of them all of which in the past have had a major bearing on my future both good and bad which in life are all sides of the same coin. Many people believe things happen for a reason and everyone has a story to tell and there are billions of different stories out there, this will be just one of them."
'Success is not how high you climb, but how long you can hang on’
Sculptor Ian G Brennan
www.iangb.com – firstname.lastname@example.org
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