Brunel in Chains is the Art Fund’s 2019 favourite work of art

We are delighted to announce that our 1857 photograph of Isambard Kingdom Brunel has been voted the public’s favourite Art Fund work of the year! Thank you to all who voted for this iconic work, and thank you to the Art Fund and other kind funders such as the National Heritage Memorial Fund whose generous support allowed us to acquire it for the Museum’s collection in 2019.

The most famous in a series of photographs of Isambard Kingdom Brunel by the young photographer Robert Howlett, this image shows Brunel against a wall of massive chain links – the launching chains of his Great Eastern.

The Brunel Museum’s chair-elect and eminent engineer, Dana Skelley OBE, says: ‘We are thrilled that this timeless 1857 print of Isambard Kingdom Brunel has won the public vote. For us, it captures so much about the remarkable man that our museum in Rotherhithe celebrates, located at the site of the world’s first tunnel under a river (1843) where he started his career under the direction of his father Sir Marc Brunel. This powerful image also has immense historic value, as it was taken by Robert Howlett, an early pioneer of photo journalism.’