Ian G Brennan Contemporary Sculptor and Woodcarver to the British Royal Household
Artist Information :-
Contemporary sculptor Ian G Brennan who lives near Portsmouth in Hampshire in the UK has been a professional sculptor and woodcarver for over twenty five years and although he produces limited bronze editions of his sculptures, the majority of his work is involved with a wide variety of highly detailed commissioned original both Realistic and Heraldic sculptures depicting many different subjects in a wide variety of materials including wood, marble, resin, sterling silver and bronze.
These commissions are as diverse as producing sculptures designed to suite the splendour of centuries old historic buildings such as Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral his rather unique skills in reproducing wood carvings and bronze sculpture from a by-gone age are often required, to the modern surroundings of Company receptions and Board Rooms; More recently Ian has been commissioned to produce two large high bas-relief sculptures now placed amongst the grandeur and elegance of the Grand Lobby of the Cunard Liner Queen Victoria, his work can also be found in many private art collections all over the World. .
St George’s Chapel Windsor – Grand Lobby Queen Victoria – St Paul’s’ Cathedral - The Lady Chapel Westminster Abbey
Ian G Brennan is one of those rather rare sculptors that both carves and casts. Ian first became a professional wood carver in 1984 and then later in 1996 also started working in other materials including creating his sculptures in bronze and silver; initially using his original woodcarvings as the ‘master copies for these bronze and silver sculptures.
For details about how Ian first became a sculptor please click here: Phoenix from the Ashes
Outlined on this website is an small example of the wide variety of wood, silver and bronze sculptures Ian G Brennan has created for well over two decades and although many of his commissions for private clients and particularly those for the Royal Household may not be shown on this website contemporarysculptor.com does however give a good idea of the typical style and detail that sculptor Ian G Brennan has created over the years.
Ian's first exhibition in an art gallery was in London’s Mayfair in 1985, a year after he first discovered his ability to carve; he then began exhibiting his realistic woodcarvings and bronze sculpture widely throughout the UK. During 1990 the Museum Service also toured a large collection of Ian’s sculptures as a 'one man' exhibition to various museums in England.
For almost two decades now as Ian has been working mostly to commission, he had been unable to concentrate on assembling a collection of his work to exhibit in art galleries. However during the past twenty years and working alongside his commissions, he has now also managed to put together a rather unique collection of wood carvings and bronze sculpture and given a suitable venue is once again looking forward to exhibiting his work in art galleries in the future.
Although working exclusively to commission has prevented Ian from exhibited in art galleries for well over a decade, he has on occasions exhibited examples of his work in the somewhat more formal surroundings of Museums; The Queens Room on-board the Cunard Liner Queen Elizabeth 2; Burlington House; Home of the Royal Academy of Arts and also within the historic Royal setting of St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, where Ian has also been invited on a number of occasions to give fully illustrated talks about the various aspects of his work and in particular how he first became a sculptor.
To view a 11 minute movie showing Ian at work, please click here
In 1989 Ian G Brennan was officially appointed 'Sculptor to the Most Noble Order of the Garter and Honourable Order of the Bath and since then spends an average of five months of each year working on a wide variety of unique commissions in mostly wood and bronze for the British Royal Household. Since this appointment, Ian has received 107 commissions from the Royal Household .
As well as these commissions for the British Royal Family, there have also been various commissions for other Foreign Royal Families, included HM King Juan Carlos of Spain, HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, HM King Harald V of Norway and His Imperial Majesty Emperor Akahito of Japan.
Initially twenty three years ago these various commissions for the Royal Household were mostly traditionally heraldic in design and often involved with creating the original carved, painted and gilded Crowns, Coronets and Crests for the newly installed Ladies and Knights of the Most Noble Order of the Garter along with the Crests for the newly installed Knights of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, however several years later these commissions for the Royal Household would also included creating a wide variety of private sculptures in mostly wood and bronze.
Many of these private commissions for the Royal Household which are often somewhat more realistic in design than the more traditional commissions Ian ordinarily receives are depicting both wildlife and the human form created in very fine detail. These private commissions now account for around a third of his time spent working for the Royal Household.
During the past twenty two years these wide variety of sculptures for the Royal Household can be well demonstrated by the commissioning in 2008 of sculptures of a black Labrador, Mute Swan and the Royal Crest and Sword for HRH Prince William of Wales now the Duke of Cambridge, when Ian was also informed by HM The Queen on St George’s Day in Windsor Castle, that HRH Prince William was to become the 1000 Knight of the Garter since 1438.
HRH Prince William’s Royal Crest – The Prince’s Crest and Sword in St Georges Chapel Windsor – the small red escallop.
HRH Prince William’s Royal Crest and Sword made by Ian G Brennan are now on display in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. As the second in line to the British throne; Prince William like his father the Prince of Wales, also uses a white label of three points attached to the Lion but in addition there is a small carved red ‘escallop’ from the Spencer Arms to honour the memory of the Prince’s mother Diana, Princess of Wales.
Two of Ian G Brennan's other commissions for the Royal Family were a pair of similar sculptures created for HM The Queen's two sons, HRH Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex and HRH Prince Andrew, The Duke of York when they were appointed Royal Knights of the Garter. Both of these sculptures were delivered to Windsor Castle in 2007.
Osprey catching a Pike - Leaping Panther - Swimming Otter - Swan with Cygnets - Sleeping Leopard - Marsh Harrier
bronze bronze bronze bronze bronze sterling silver
66 inches (188cm) high - 45 inches (115cm) long - 43 inches (119cm) high - 27 inches (69cm) high - 20 inches (51cm) high - 15 inches ( 38 cm) high
All six wildlife sculptures above three of which are life size, were originally carved from a single piece of English lime wood or walnut moulded and then cast in bronze or sterling silver.
Main discipline of work
Apart from Ian's work for the Royal Household over the years, Ian has also worked on a large variety of wood, marble, resin, silver and bronze commissions for both private individuals and Corporations. These wide variety of sculptures have been as diverse as producing a life size 'Osprey catching a Pike' bronze for a fountain, to then spending almost a year carving the scrollwork on Lord Nelson's Flagship HMS Victory. A full size statue of the 'Risen Christ' for a church, carving from a single piece of lime wood an Eight feet ( 244cm)'Bald Eagle in Flight' sculpture for an American Corporation, more recently carving the two large bas-relief sculptures for the Grand Lobby of the Cunard Liner Queen Victoria.
40 inches wide x 35 inches high -- 40 inches x 58 inches high
For further details and stage photographs showing how both Cunard bas relief sculptures were produced; please click appropriate photographs.
Although Ian started woodcarving as a medium for his sculptures with many of the wood sculptures being produced from a single piece of wood. He also produces bronze and sterling silver sculptures with wildlife sculptures and birds of prey studies a particular specialty, all of which are produced in very fine detail. Each sculpture Ian produces are signed, numbered and dated.
The six feet high Osprey catching a Pike Bronze - the Risen Christ statue and the 'gold tooth'.
Ian's commissions often vary from the highly detailed realistic sculptures in wood and bronze to the more unusual commissions such as a large carved and gilded molar for outside a Dentist surgery, Ian carefully selects each piece of timber to be used for his various sculptures which are mostly produced from hard woods such as walnut and lime wood, both of which carve extremely well and can also hold very fine detail. Lime wood is also the wood he most often uses during the past 25 years, for many of Ian's commissions for Westminster Abbey and Windsor Castle.
Ian's early wood carvings
Although Ian started using wood as a medium for his sculptures in 1984, enjoying the challenge of carving from a single solid block. In 1996 his work began to be also cast in bronze and occasionally silver. Although as is the normal process the original master copies produced for bronze sculpture are sculpted in clay, wax or plaster are often destroyed during the moulding process at the foundry, when appropriate Ian still produces the original master copy for the bronze casting in wood, which is then moulded to produce the bronze sculpture. This highly detailed woodcarving 'master copy' can then be polished and sold as a unique sculpture.
Many hours of researching the subject are undertaken using live studies whenever possible, but he also uses videos and books until he has built up a complete picture in his mind of what the intended sculpture should look like. Ian has a natural ability to see things three dimensionally, which is extremely useful when he is carving one of his life size sculptures from within the trunk of a massive tree.
The first wood carving Ian attempted a pair of' Leaping Dolphins ' at 6 inches high and a River Otter at 8 inches high, both of which he has retained. Although Ian obviously does not consider these first two sculptures as his finest work, they are however his first attempts at woodcarving after his cabinet making business burnt down, which was to become the beginning of his new career as a sculptor, now working in a wide variety of material including wood, bronze and silver.
Ian's first wood carvings numbered 1 & 2
Ian's first two heraldic commission were the carved and gilded Crown for King Juan Carlos of Spain for St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle and a carved and painted Cockerel Crest for an Admiral of the Fleet for Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey.
St George's Chapel Windsor - Henry V11 Chapel Westminster Abbey
Ian's first two carved and painted Crests
The first bronze sculpture Ian produced was a 7.5 inches long 'Elephant with calf, the second bronze sculpture he produced was a 65 inches high life size ' Osprey catching a Pike'.
Elephant with calf - Osprey catching a Pike
Ian's first two bronze sculptures
Ian often works on a number of completely different types of sculptures throughout the week from his studio in Southern England. He finds the contrast between perhaps one day carving from wax a life size ' Swimming Otter' for a bronze, to the next day carving from lime wood a jewel encrusted Crown for a Queen, enables him to work on each particular commission completely afresh. Many hours of researching the subject are undertaken to ensure complete accuracy, and with the optional coloured 'patinas' added to the bronzes this can give a distinctive appearance of marble with a warmth and living quality, particularly to the finish of the bronze wildlife sculptures.
As well as using the more traditional clay, Ian often carves the master copies of his sculptures in both wood and plaster as shown below with the plaster full size Crucifix and Bald Eagle woodcarving shown below.
please click to enlarge
Ian has also been commissioned by the Museum service, English Heritage and the Ministry of Defence on a variety of historic projects which have included amongst other things restoring and replace sections of the carved Victorian oak panels for the Winchester Council Chambers and Southampton Guildhall. Carving a life size Lion figure-head for a Museum to then spending almost a year working on 'Lord Nelson's flagship' HMSVictory' carving all the replacement intricate scrollwork around the entrance port on the middle gun-deck on this unique First Rate Ship of the Line built in 1765.
HMS Victory woodcarving – ‘Running before the Wind’
In 1992 Ian started working on the HMS Victory sculpture ‘Running before the Wind’ which was carved entirely from original oak removed from HMS Victory’s lower gun during the restoration program in 1991 and although it has taken almost 6000 hours of work and looks very fragile being made of seasoned oak it is exceptionally strong.
Out of one of these large oak beams I carved a four feet long Battle of Trafalgar scene depicting HMS Victory about to break through the French and Spanish allied line which is now displayed onboard HMS Victory. The other large oak beam removed at the same time was used to carve the HMS Victory model.
It has been said amongst Ian’s family, many of which have served in the Royal Marines, including his father James Brennan, one of his ancestors Marine John Brennan who fought with and died along with Admiral Nelson onboard HMS Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar. Although Ian’s father was a proud Scot, his from the Irish republic and some lived in and around Shannon the home town of Royal Marine John Brennan.
One of Ian’s recent commissions from the Royal Household was to produced the carved and gilded Royal Crest and Knights Sword for HRH Prince William when he was made a Knight of the Garter in 2007, a piece of HMS Victory oak taken from the Victory sculpture was placed into the hilt of HRH Prince William’s Garter Knight sword which is now on display in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.
Prince William’s carved and gilded sword made from original timbers from HMS Victory
HMS Victory ‘Running before the Wind’
Further information can be found at www.victorysculpture.com
The Victory Sculpture is currently on display in the reception at the historic Carpenters Hall in London.
Ian has also been working at Southwick House at HMS Dryad, General Eisenhower's Allied Headquarters in Southern England during WW II (where D-Day was planned ) restoring and replacing detailed carvings on antique mirrors and picture frames. He has also produced sculptures for Company Logo's, Advertising and a wide variety of wood, bronze and silver . These have included the Heraldic Lion logo Sculpture for Chivas Regal Whisky and the Trophy for the Scotland V Barbarians International Rugby Cup Final. Ian's work has also been used as backdrops and props for Television Programs such as providing Birds of Prey sculptures for the set of the Granada Televisions detective program 'Cracker'.
A life size Osprey catching a Pike - The carved and gilded Pascal Candle Stand for St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle - A Millennium Project for a local school - The Sword commissioned for HRH Prince William..
Although the majority of Ian G Brennan’s commissions over the years have been for realistic or heraldic sculpture created in fine detail, mostly from wood, bronze and silver. The wildly contrasting woodcarving commissions Ian has received; many of which have been carved from a single piece of wood can be well illustrated with a small sample of such diverse wood carvings shown above:
Coats of Arms and Crests
A small selection of the commissioned Coats of Arms, Royal, Corporate and Family Crests carved and painted by Heraldic Sculptor Ian G Brennan;
Ian G Brennan has also been producing carved and painted Coats of Arms and Crests working from designs and sketches provided by the client, in wood and bronze for over twenty five years. Ian's Heraldic Commissions are often as diverse as producing Carved Coat of Arms and replicas of State Crowns and Coronets, to Regal Lions and Mythical Unicorns for Royalty and the Nobility from all over the World.
Ian’s carved carved and painted highly detailed Heraldic Crests which are often depicting such designs from Majestic Eagles to Busts of Men and Woman for Field Marshals, Admirals of the Fleet and Marshals of the Royal Air Force. These colourful carved Crests Ian has produced have also include designs depicting Animals, Birds and Flowers, for Prime Minister, Statesmen and other Heads of State, which have more recently included the carved and gilded Chrysanthemum Crest for Emperor Akahito of Japan.
These Heraldic sculptures are then placed in such historic settings as The College of Arms in London, St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle and Henry V11 Chapel in Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral.
St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle -- Henry V11 Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey
The College of Arms is one of the few remaining heraldic courts in Western Europe and is now the oldest existing such College in the world, and have been granting armorial bearings (coat of arms ) from their original building in London since the 1670s.
Windsor Castle and Westminster Abbey being two of the most famous, historic and widely visited buildings in Britain. Windsor Castle being the home to the HM the Queen and earlier sovereigns of England for over 900 years. Westminster Abbey is where every Sovereign since 1066 apart from Edward V and Edward V111 has been crowned and for many centuries the traditional burial place of Kings and Queens.
Ian's G Brennan's work has also been frequently featured on both Radio and Television and also via the Central Office of Information. Ian has given many Talks about his work using both 35 mm slides and power point presentations at such venues on many Cunard Liners; Burlington House; Home of the Royal Academy of Arts and also on two occasions in Windsor Castle.
Wild Badgers, Foxes, Squirrels and Deer are regular visitors both inside and outside Ian's countryside studio in Southern England. These visits are a constant source of inspiration especially if he is working on one of his sculptures depicting British wildlife, as it gives him a rather unique opportunity of often being able to study the subject close at hand.
photographs taken at Ian's Studio; please click to enlarge
A small selection of the variety of sculptor Ian G Brennan's commissions in wood and bronze
For further information about Ian's work or details about commissioning an individual wood carving or bronze sculpture; please contact :-
Ian G Brennan