Works by Pen Browning

Robert Wiedeman Barrett "Pen" Browning (1849-1912), the only child of the Brownings, studied sculpture with August Rodin in Paris and painting with Jean Arnould Heyermans in Antwerp, Belgium, winning several medals and praise from artists of the time. His works were displayed at the Royal Academy, the Grosvenor and Hanover Galleries in London, and at the Paris Universal Exhibition, but he never received the recognition that his father desired.

Nine of Pen's paintings are on display in the Armstrong Browning Library—four portraits (three of his father and one of his father's close friend), a somber night scene, three large-scale canvasses, and one early work. One piece of Pen's sculpture was added to the ABL collections in 2010. For the entry pertaining to "Hope," please visit the Sculpture page under Art & Artifacts. Decide for yourself the merits of his work.

PB Painting-The French Abbe Reading The French Abbe Reading
Oil by Pen Browning, 1875
Dimensions: 48 1/2 x 54 1/2"
Location: Third Floor Stairwell

The reading of Theophile Gautier's infamous "scrofulous French novel," Mademoiselle de Maupin, brings the hint of a smile to the Abbe's face. One of Pen's earliest paintings and his first major sale, the painting was purchased in 1876 by a wealthy ironmaster, Frederick Lehmann. It remained in the Lehmann family until it and a portrait of Robert Browning by Rudolf Lehmann, brother of Frederick, were presented to the Armstrong Browning Library by the Browning Study Club of Dallas, Texas, in 1947. The portrait of Browning is displayed in the McLean Foyer of Meditation.

An account by Alfred Domett, taken from The Diary of Alfred Domett 1872-1885, p. 169, reflects an occasion when Domett and his son (Alf) chatted with Browning about the paintng:


March 30 [1876]. [Alf] and I going to R. Curling's house to dinner in Princess square, as we were crossing Hereford St., heard someone calling loudy "Domett!" Turned, and Browning came rushing up.

Alf's being a Royal Academy student, made us ask how "Pen" was getting on. "He has had a wonderful success!" said Browning. He brought over with him at Xmas a "study" of a priest reading a book. Millais had seen the picture and pronounced "the drawing perfect." Lehmann the artist (I think he said) expressed a desire to purchase it and offered Pen 150 guineas for it. Pen said "It was absurd—it could not be worth so much!" that he did not wish to sell it, knowing its defects. The other persisted in his offer. "Let me wait another year and then I will paint you a picture if you like and if I can," said Pen. "Then your price will probably be beyond me" replied Lehmann, "I must have this one." Browning said Pen was "quite wise" about it and still declined to take so much money, until at last he (Browning) said "Pen, don't be a fool—take it as it is offered." Then he consented but stipulated that it should not be exhibited—not on account of misgivings as to its merit, whatever he may have entertained, but because the book the priese was represented as reading was a very uncanonical one indeed—certain notorious memoirs of a French Madame—and Pen did not wish to give offence to the many who "reverenced priests."

PB Painting-The Delivery to the Secular Arm The Delivery to the Secular Arm
Oil by Pen Browning, 1880
Dimensions: 90" x 130"
Location: Third Floor Stairwell

This is one of Pen Browning's largest paintings and is considered one of his best works. First exhibited in 1880 by the Hanover Gallery in London, England, the painting depicts a scene during the Spanish Inquisition at Antwerp, 1570. The young woman has been brought forth by guards to stand before her Inquisition accusers and the representative of the secular arm of the government. It is his duty to pass sentence. Robert Browning penned a motto for the painting, which is a translation of a quotation from the poetry of the Spanish poet, Calderon.

Therefore the hand of God
Thy sentence with His finger
Hath written, and this tribunal
Consigneth it now straightway
Unto the Secular Arm.

Added to the Armstrong Browning Library collection in 1990, funds for the painting and its restoration were provided by the Guardian Angel organization, patrons of the Library.

RB by Pen Browning Robert Browning
Oil by Pen Browning, 1881
Dimensions: 18" x 14"
Location: Research Hall

This is a companion portrait to the one below of Joseph Milsand. Pen designed this original frame.

Research Hall-Milsand Joseph Milsand
Oil by Pen Browning, 1882
Dimensions: 22" x 18"
Location: Research Hall

This portrait of Joseph Milsand, French writer, critic, and close friend of the Brownings, was painted as a companion piece to the one of Browning done the year before. The frame is a reproduction of one designed by Pen.

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William R. Kendall, Houston, Texas.

RB by P. Browning Robert Browning
Oil by Pen Browning, 1882
Dimensions: 21" x 16 1/2"
Location: Research Hall
PB Painting-The Ruined Chateau The Ruined Chateau
Oil by Pen Browning, c. 1888
Dimensions: 28" x 42"
Location: Third Floor Stairwell

On April 17, 1888, Robert Browning wrote to his son:

"I received Mrs. FitzGerald into favour at once when she showed me where she had hung your picture."

Mrs. Thomas FitzGerald, a close friend of the poet and the artist, purchased the painting in 1888 and hung it on the walls of Shalstone Manor in Buckingham, England. It and numerous autographed volumes, letters, and memorabilia items—forming the Purefoy-FitzGerald Collection—were purchased from the Purefoy family in 1974.

RB by Pen B. Robert Browning
Oil by Pen Browning, May 1889
Dimensions: 60" x 42"
Location: Entrance Foyer

This was the last formal portrait done of Robert Browning, 77, who died at his son's home in Venice a few months later. Dr. A. J. Armstrong visited the artist in his home in Italy in 1909, where Pen told him that he considered this portrait the best likeness of his father. The gold-leaf wooden frame, designed by Pen, is filled with bursting pomegranates. The portrait was a gift to the Browning collection from the Senior Class of 1919.

Italian Cook painting Italian Cook (Venice)
Oil by Pen Browning, [ca.1870]
Dimensions: 14" x 8 1/2"
Location: Third Floor Stairwell

A label on the back of the painting indicates that it was purchased at the Sotheby Sale of the Brownings' belongings in 1913 and became the property of Miss R. Fairbairn. Little else is known about the painting. It appears to be an early work of the artist and was acquired for the collection in 2014 through the assistance of the Dr. Delores Gardner Endowment Fund.