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 City of London to Burlington House; Home of the Royal Academy Chapel in Windsor Castle to the Dungeons beneath the Castle. Ian's fully illustrated Talks have also extended to the somewhat more salubrious surroundings as since 1992 up to 2023 when Ian has been invited to give his fully illustrated talks and presentations onboard five Cunard Ships from the QE2 to the QM2.
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 Elephant in the Room? 'On the Brink' - bronze
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)
During 2022 the recently completed Coronet for the Queen Consort in Ian’s studio being worked on long with one of his regular visitors arriving from the nearby forest and a week later the Coronet was placed in position in St Georges Chapel Windsor alongside the Coronet Ian created almost three decades earlier, for Princess Anne, The Princess Royal.
What a difference a few decades can make. One day in 1976 I decided to give up my full-time career as an assistant research and development engineer working in clean room conditions in a laboratory surrounded by the latest cutting-edge technology. To the next in far less spotless conditions making furniture surrounded by hand tools that had seen better days in a dusty shed making furniture full time than I had previously been making part time. Then in my mid-twenties I had a midlife crisis having decided my new forever career was to be a carpenter just like my Grandad, until fate decided otherwise. When a decade the transformation from a part time carpenter to full time cabinet maker was up and running like a saw after moving into a much larger workshop fully equipped with the finest three-phase woodworking machinery to cope with a full order book and after many months of early starts and late nights working as a one-man band trying to keep up with my ever-increasing repertoire, when overnight the business burnt down when I finally manage to get some sleep.
‘Day one’ in the spring and months later still playing catch up making Furniture and by winter time the same place but different Craft.
My new career from a cabinetmaker to sculptor began in 1984 when I found myself with no stock, machinery, tools, or a workshop with walls and especially a roof. Waiting customers who had paid stage and final payments for their recently completed furniture including a cedar wood kitchen corner seating unit and table. A fully fitted solid oak kitchen and the remaining solid mahogany galley units recently completed for the classic 1930’s J Class Yacht Velsheda. All highly polished and just waiting delivery, but then just a pile of burnt embers lying beneath the soles of my increasingly warming up boots. Fragments of blackened timbers occasionally still glowing from the intense heat of the fire recently extinguished by the local fire brigade who with a job well done and heavy red hoses rolling up and after wishing me luck, were soon on their way. Blackened burnt timbers covered by layers of thick grey dust that in the odd place underneath were glowing red hot and with each gust of wind, fragments of what remained of my business, income and customers furniture orders would gently fly away into the night sky like tiny Chinese lanterns……
Then realising I had made a silly mistake with renewing my business insurance policy, subsequently left me uninsured and standing in the blackened rubble amongst the still smoking burnt out workshop as Dawn was about to rise with a dozen or so of large three-phase woodworking machines that were caught in the centre of it all, still hot to the touch. Machines that only the day before were warm in other ways as they were busily earning their keep along with another bag of fresh bedding for next door's rabbits. Being free-lance I soon found myself with no prospects of earning income anytime soon along with a five-figure overdraft residing with a Bank who did not bear bad news well and that patience was not a virtue, as Head office 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. As a result, the house which I had purchased a decade earlier along with a large garden and a small mortgage from the compensation I received for the injuries received and the wages lost over the years waiting for them to heal, after being knocked of my motorcycle on Good Friday by a Van in a hurry and the house that the crash built, was then at risk of being reposed effectively if I couldn’t make something from nothing and the monies deposited in a pretty timely fashion…...
However, if at the time 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 with the insurance and moved into a new workshop with electricity, walls and especially a roof. Take on staff to help with my full order book and would simply have to start again like you do and as a consequence the sculptures shown here and the hundreds of sculptures not shown here, commissioned from all over the world and also much closer to home, would most likely never have existed……..
Including over 140 commissions from the British royal household during the past thirty-four years which include creating the bejewelled Crowns for six European Kings and Queens as well as creating the gilded Coronet for the Queen Consort. Along with creating a wide variety of unique sculptures for Four British Prime Ministers, Twenty-five Princes, Princesses, Earls, Lords, Ladies, and an Emperor. Over thirty of which could be seen placed on both sides of the historic chapels in Westminster Abbey and the medieval chapel St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle where in 2022 King Charles 111 made his first Christmas address to the Nation and beyond.
St Georges’ Chapel Windsor. - Christmas 2022
The final commissions Ian completed during the reign of HM The Queen Elizabeth 11 were the gilded and bejewelled coronet for the Queen Consort for St Georges' Chapel in Windsor Castle and crests of a Golden Eagle in Flight for Henry V11 Chapel in Westminster Abbey. The first two commissions completed during the reign of the HM King Charles 111 included a crests of a Dog for Westminster Abbey and a Panther and Mute Swan for Windsor Castle, which are due be placed alongside Ian’s other totally unique sculptures currently on display St George’s Chapel for the Order of the Garter service held at Windsor Castle in June. The sculptures of the Dog and Golden Eagle were commissioned for Henry V11 Chapel in Westminster Abbey and are due to be completed in time for the King's Coronation at Westminster Abbey in May…….
"If only I could have known on that fateful day of the fire on May the 7th 1984 when I was standing amongst the ruins of my workshop and career trying to find something, anything that could be salvaged from the fire to use or sell to try and make ends meet. I would discover as dawn was rising, the inspiration for a totally new career hidden deep beneath the blackened rubble of my workshop and career that every night was being transformed into the local tip. That exactly 21 years to the very day I would instead be standing in the St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle exhibiting wood and bronze sculptures I wasn’t aware I was capable of creating. Along with over seventy other sculptures commissioned at the time by the royal household, many of which were placed upon the walls in the historic medieval chapels in Windsor Castle and Westminster Abbey, having been invited to give a 'Talk' my first talk at Windsor Castle about my new career as a professional sculptor and woodcarver whose work can now be found all over the world and much closer to home. That everything would eventually work out in the end and that things might not have been quite so worrying at the time; but you don’t do you”.
'Success is not how high you can climb, but how long you can hang on’
This particular journey over the decades along with all its ups and downs on the way including from 1992 to 2023 having been invited by Cunard to cruise the seven seas and a few oceans along the way from the QE2 to the QM2 to give fully illustrated, informative and often inspirational talks about my work and career as a sculptor and how it all came about and often after my Talks it has been suggested I should write a book about it and a few years ago decided to do so which will include many of the high and low points and so much more in between, with sections of the first draft to be added here shortly and at www.ohwhatnow.co.uk later.
Sculptor Ian G Brennan
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Artist Information HMS Victory Sculpture Selected Commissions Wood/Bronze Sculptures HMS Victory
Journal / Bio Garter Knights Crests Bath Knights Crests Creating a Crest/Arms Short TV Films