The fish market, Cape Town signed with initials, inscribed and dated 'FB.91.Cape Town' (lower right) oil on panel 43 x 31cm (16 15/16 x 12 3/16in).
Shortly after moving to Stratford Studios in Kensington in the Summer of 1891, Brangwyn was invited to make a painting tour of South Africa by a Bond Street gallery owner named Larkin. Following a highly successful exhibition depicting the life and scenery of India, Larkin was encouraged to invest in young and struggling artists by sending them on painting tours of the world to observe the life and landscape of a country that was currently in the news.
Impressed by his enthusiasm and technical ability, Larkin placed his confidence in Brangwyn to produce an interesting series of pictures. Brangwyn travelled with William Hunt, and Larkin agreed a total sum of £500 for their efforts, half in advance and half on delivery of the pictures. In the late summer of the same year, full of youthful optimism, the pair sailed for Cape Town.
During their trip the young artists made sketches of the local community and for Brangwyn in particular, activities around the harbour provided sure inspiration. His memories as a young boy of quietly watching Charles Napier Hemy paint from nature along the banks of the Thames had inspired in him a great interest in maritime scenery. Later in life he would regard these observations as his first instruction in the technique of painting and were surely vital in instilling a great confidence in him as a professional artist.
As a struggling professional in his early twenties, painting trips to the fishing villages of Sandwich, Rye, and Mevagissey, as well as long excursions aboard several vessels, cemented this life-long interest in the sea and the close-knit coastal life that followed. Brangwyn's talent had been recognised by many influential individuals such as William Morris, and he was buoyed by the response to the small handful of paintings that had already been exhibited at the Royal Academy. However it had been noted that his pallet was dull and while his work was detailed and intense he often focused too heavily on greys and blues. In South Africa, his palette brightened, and he developed a strong sense of the local colour, bringing back a sheaf of notes and sketches with which to put together an impressive exhibition, which opened in London in March 1892, much to the delight of his sponsor.
The present study was probably executed en plein air between September and November 1891 and is an excellent example of the Brangwyn's flair for capturing the fleeting moments of marine life.