Archive for british

British Folk Art

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Folk art by definition is the quintessence of the vernacular.  The dimensional soul of a native culture. It is the unpretentious product of a folk who looked to their hearts for artistic inspiration at a time when the practicalities of life got in the way of education.

It is an ethnic expression of working men and women who’s product has not been blighted by intellectuals. So it has been saved from fancy otherworldly muses which it never needed because fundamentally it is instinctive and comes from the gut not the Heavens.

The expression ‘There is nothing new under the sun’ is also true of folk art. It may only have been understood under the term folk art in the last 150 years or so, but it’s apprentices were working up a sweat centuries before that. It was emotionally conceived within reverberations of the primal-screem, its earliest manifestations emerging from a dark and impoverished time. Ironically primal-folk-art is often viewed in an incredulous or optimistic way and objects which to our highly superstitious ancestors may have had serious votive or magical properties, we now frequently see as quaint, hopeful or amusing. One may also perceive in the evolution of folk art a natural backlash, the antithesis of classism and the culture of guilds, but because of an intrinsic humility it has operated hitherto in a kind of undercurrent to the more punchy and avant-garde arts.

The spokes in the wheels of folk art are so disparate and the demography of its practioners so wide that like a bicycle with out a rider there was never a hope of any movement.  It is not only a wholehearted expression of a stratum of humanity it is also naive, disorganised, alternative, romantic and frequently annonymous and as a consquence presents itself as an enigma within the arts.

This cohesive reflection we see from these disjointed elements make it collectively the intriguing and unconventional body of work that we know and love and if British folk art is now becoming less endangered than perhaps it once was, I suspect that perhaps part of the reason is that people see it as an escape from the present to the past, away from the over-manufactured, technological and multinational world we live in. So when it’s green credentials, it’s organic roots, merge with our dreamy concept of a rustic workshop set in a rural idyll, then these criterea provoke a sentimentality that becomes an antidote to our modern times

Folk art is the embodiment the sentiments the aspirations and the musings of an underclass and we are the fortunate benefactors of an inheritance, which brings nothing but joy to us. At its most expressive and pursuasive it can be a harbinger of love, piercing our hearts with its eccentricitys, emblems and tokens, with it’s naive charm, humour, invention and honesty.

I implore you to stay in touch with this expansive heritage of ours known as folk art –  to help save your souls and invigorate your spirits don’t go a day without it.

Copyright: P.Cooper


 Overheard in a Museum

“Quite colloquial and nearly charming

It’s perspectives all awry”

“Peasant Higledy – pigledy seascapes

where figurheads score the sky”

Folk art is not these whispering dilettants

always seeking the sublime;

But the brightly painted drummer boy

Who beats the whirligig of time:

British Folk Art

Steam & Sail: two warships by  W.Smith.
Illustrated in James Ayres Book
English Naive Art  1700 – 1900

Our online Exhibition of British Folk Art begins 12th June. It is scheduled to coincide with Tate Britain’s retrospective on the subject which is now less than a month away.

I believe that Tate Britain’s exhibition is possibly more encompassing in it’s scope than perhaps that of the average Antique dealer who specializes in the subject, but of course the museum have the liberty to exhibit things of any period.

I understand they will be exhibiting embroidery by Mary Linwood plus work by the esteemed Cornish naive artist Alfred Wallis and a thatched figure of King Alfred by the wonderfully named Jesse Maycock. There will also be maritime embroidery by the fisherman John Craske and a patchwork quilt by Jane Williams.

While on the subject I am hoping to see Elizabeth Allen’s collage of various materials entitled ‘Population Explosion’ which shows a mother in a maternity ward in a long bed with her seven newly borns lined up down the side of the bed. To all intense and purposes this is a highly amusing masterpiece although in reality alas tells a very sad tale of a woman who had taken a fertility drug.

Interestingly the artist Elizabeth Allen was the daughter of a tailor who busied herself collected various off cuts and scraps to make her art work. There is also an early nineteenth century echo of this behaviour in the work of George Smart the tailor of Frant who also didn’t like to see good materials go to waste and produced some absolutely timeless collage images including most famously ‘The Goose Woman’ who often found herself in the company of ‘Old Bright The Postman.’ His other most famous offering was ‘The Earth Stopper’ depicting the story of a man who had been commissioned to fill up fox-holes and late one evening had a scary encounter with what he believed was the devil!

Additionally to what I have mentioned already Tate Britain’s Exhibition will also include Ship’s Figureheads and painted trade signs which were not only costly but obligatory in London in the 18th century. Toby Jugs will also be on display along with an intricate sculpture of a Cockerel made out of mutton bones during the Napoleonic wars by french prisoners of war.

FOLK ART MAKERSWeekend at Tate Britain

This particular weekend is designed for youngsters who want to take the hands on approach it will include an embroidery workshop : Message on a hanky : A knife carving workshop : Make a spatula : A collage workshop : Make a Home Sweet Home sampler : And finally there is to be sign painting workshop :

Folk Art in British museums  –   basically is dispersed.

Having said that I never go into provincial museum however small without finding something interesting [ that would  fit into the folk art genre ] so it is always worth finding the time to have a look.

Here follows a list of museums that have permanant collections

Compton Verney (Warwickshire)

The Beamish Museum (Newcastle-Upon-Tyne)

Welsh Folk Museum (Cardiff)

Kettle’s Yard (Cambridge)

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (Treen Collection)

BRITISH FOLK ART – A Celebration

Beginning 12th June 2014 our on-line exhibition will include selected Folk Art, Furniture & Pottery items of museum quality from throughout the British Isles which will be for sale.

Our online exhibition of naive pictures

I have been a bit remiss, in writing this, my blog.
We have changed Webb designer so the website has been completely overhauled and now has a slightly new look and should prove to be more efficient for all.
Obviously these changes have taken us some time to implement that is why there has been no blogging recently.

Our main news is we now have a date for our online exhibition of naive pictures. This will begin on the 1st October 2013.
‘Extremely pleased’ is a summary of the way I feel about the quality and diversity of the pictures we have collected for this event. Most of the exhibits have British origins although having said that, three of them have come from America – including a naive portrait of a gentleman. There is also a striking naive landscape of a rural Pennsylvanian community which is housed in a fabulous burr Yew-wood frame. Additionally there is a small Indian ink drawing of an English Man-of-war which is the work of one Moses Sperry who kept a diary which he began in 1801. He liked to embellish his Chronicles with naive sketches including shipping that he may possibly have seen in Long Island Sound. His home was in Southbury Connecticut and according to his log he seems to have spent an awful lot of time chopping wood!

A further marine picture we have is possibly the star of the show and is illustrated in James Ayres book ‘200 Years of Naive English Art’
For those of you with an interest in local works we have a family portrait of John and Ursula Cragg and their seven surviving children. This is a small but very detailed interior scene giving an excellent idea of what domestic life was life 200 years ago. The painting is in oil and on a quarter-sawn oak panel.

John Cragg who came from Horsham became Horologist to the Admiralty and as a teenager was apprenticed to Charles Smith a clockmaker in Dove Ct. of Lombard street, London. Part of Johns apprenticeship fees a premium of £21 was paid by Christs Hospital School.
Ursula Cragg was a cousin to Elizabeth Batts the wife of Captain James Cook and the Cragg children featured in Elizabeth cooks will.