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The painting is after Robert Howlett’s iconic photograph of the engineer standing in front of the chains of the 'Great Eastern' at the ship’s launch ramps on the Isle of Dogs. Brunel collapsed and died soon after the photograph was taken. The Bryan Organ painting is larger than life and was commissioned by Sir Peter Parker, last Chairman of British Railways.
The Victorians' favourite word for machines was ‘promethean’. The engineer is a romantic figure, like the Titan who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals. Here he is unchained.
acrylic on canvas
H 242.6 x W 119.4 cm
gift from the British Rail Residuary Body, 2010