Thursday, 23 January 2014

Peasant Art Exhibition, Charterhouse 1902 continued

Following on from my previous post, the rest of The Carthusian article (April 1902) on the Peasant Art exhibition explains the exhibits from various countries in some detail.  Of particular interest is the later reference to the "work of the looms and of the needle".

I wonder how many of the items displayed in this 1902 exhibition became part of the peasant art collection bought from Rev. Gerald Davies, which was then displayed at the Peasant Art Museum on Kings Road, Haslemere until it transferred to the Haslemere Educational Museum.

"The wooden objects came principally from the Northern and especially the Scandinavian Countries of Europe; without going too severely into a very interesting question it may briefly be said that Iceland, Norway (the Southern Parts) Sweden (Southern Parts) the Baltic Provinces of Russia and Germany, Denark, and Holland are the parts of Northern Europe in which this delightful fashion of decorating the objects of daily home life has chiefly prevailed.  Each country has it own special characteristics, discernible to a practised eye, though there is a general family resemblance.  The finest designs are perhaps those of Iceland; but Norway (especially the work from the Valleys of Gudhandsdal, Thelemooch and above all Scotersdal) may reasonably dispute the claim.  Holland, which had a very attractive table all to itself, at first sight is even more pleasing.  But a calm examination reveals the fact that its designs – admirable of their kind – are almost wholly confined to surface, or ‘chip’ carving as it is sometimes called.  And one feels instinctively that one cannot claim so high a place for it.

The silver work, especially that of Norway, is no less delightful than the woodwork.  Genuine peasant work this: - though as explained in a notice, not to be considered work made by a Peasant for his own use.  The nature of the case implies that it is made to be sold or bartered to other peasants.  But the peasant jewellers differ in no respect from their brother peasants.  They spend all their long summer days in getting in their hay, and laying in their store for their winter: they spend their long winter nights in making silver buttons and brooches, while the ordinary peasant can only carve you a mangle board, or hew you out a throne-like chair, or make you a wooden wassail bowl that might serve for the posset of a King.  Here again your peasant jeweller will give you a [piece of absolutely right and satisfactory design, which your manifico of Regent Street and Bond Street couldn’t do if he would, and wouldn’t do if he could.

Charterhouse School Museum, 1914
From the Photo Album of Josiah Denyer,
1914, Charterhouse School Archive, 0138

The handicraft of the women – the work of the looms and of the needle – is as unerringly right as that of the men.  The rugs woven in Norwegian sooters, on looms of the simplest character made of a few upright slabs of pine: the towellings worked in Russian hovels, and dyed with primitive vegetable dyes: the laces made in Bavarian pillows – all these are unconsciously wrought on the spirit of fine design, which all the Art Schools, and Technical Schools of England and the Continent, however well intentioned, are failing to achieve.

One of the most interesting features of the exhibition was the upright loom which Mr. J.W. Marshall had constructed on a Norwegian model, and upon which he had woven a few bands of stuff to show the mechanism.  This form of loom, still used in Norway and in India, and probably in many other places besides, is the very earliest form od loom known to mankind, having indeed, so far as can be ascertained, been used at ant rat as early as the Bronze Pre-historic age.  Those whose minds are not quite clear on the processes of spinning and weaving, - and we have heard it whispered that even the upper forms of a Public School have sometimes something to learn, - will probably have carried off an idea or two which was new to them.  The Exhibition had, indeed, a great deal to teach in all directions but it was not one which yielded up its secret so easily as some.  We cannot conclude without a reference to the work done by the Rev. G.S. Davies in connexion with this exhibition; it was no small undertaking to get together the various exhibits and to arrange them as he has done with his usual admirable taste and skill, and he is to be congratulated on the success which as attended his efforts."  

Charterhouse Museum, 1882
Charterhouse School Archive, 162/1/3.

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