Thursday, 4 November 2010

Biographies: Godfrey Blount

Godfrey Blount was born on 29th June 1859 in Bagshot, the fourth of five children to John H. Blount and Sarah Catherine Blount (nee Robins), residing at 6 High Street, Bagshot.  Blount was an accomplished artist, designing the striking peasant tapestries for the Peasant Arts movement, and a deeply religious man, founding the Country Church in St George's Hall, Kings Road.

His father was a doctor.  In 1871 he is found on the census at the Waterloo Place Gentleman’s School, Leamington.  He went on to Winchester College where he distinguished himself at football and from there he studied at Pembroke College, Cambridge University, where in the 1881 census he is listed alongside Professor John N. Keynes, John Maynard Keynes’ father.  It is understood that he considered entering the church or becoming a doctor, but that a great friend, James Archibald Campbell,  encouraged him to follow his talents by being an artist.
Godfrey Blount from Haslemere Educational Museum

Blount then went onto study for a short time at Herkomer’s Art School in Bushey, run by the notable oil and watercolourist Sir Hubert von Herkomer (1849-1914).  He then studied at the Slade School of Art in London, under Alphonse Legros (1837-1911), while other art schools advocated detailed compositions, placing great emphasis on shading, Slade students were encouraged to make rapid linear sketches from the life model.  It was here that he met his wife, who he married in 1887.  In 1891 the Blounts were living together in 1 Church Row Mews, Hampstead.

Godfrey Blount Talisman Tablet, 1925 (sold by Hill House Antiques)
The Blounts moved to Haslemere around 1896, from a village near Oxford.  In 1899 he published his most notable work, ‘Arbor Vitae’, ‘a book on the nature and development of imaginative design for the use of teachers and craftsmen’.  Numerous other works are attributed to Blount, but out of these, only ‘The Science of Symbols’ and ‘The Founding of a Folk Church Being a Letter to the New Crusade’ is still in circulation.  His other works include Peasant Arts pamphlets, leaflets and symbolic verses.
Godfrey Blount from W.R.Trotter, The Hilltop Writers, The Book Guild Ltd, 2003

In 1900 Blount founded the Fellowship of the New Crusade, preaching simple life and the revival of handicrafts, folk music and dance and the restoration of country ways and customs.  In 1901 the Blounts are recorded living in Foundry Cottage, Foundry Lane, close to the weaving houses.  In 1902 the St Cross School of Handicraft was established in Weydown Road by the Blounts, making talismans, religious emblems, toys and model cottages which were intended to express true feelings in beautiful colour and form.  Around this time Blount founded the Country Church in the Hall of St George on Foundry Meadow, where he would preach every Sunday, and which then transferred to the grounds of St Cross.  He was Master of the Guild of Country Players, whose objective was the revival of the pleasures of country life, and Chairman of the English Handicraft Society.

Arbor Vitae, Godfrey Blount, 1899

His artwork included oil and watercolours, wall frescoes, decorative plasterwork on walls and ceilings, stucco and cement work decoration external to houses, panels on furniture, wood carvings on dressers, cupboards, wardrobes and bedsteads.  During the war, Blount acquired a printing press and produced varied pamphlets and broadsides.  He also produced greeting cards and motto decorative plates.

The 1911 census records the Blounts residing at St Cross on Weydown Road.  In 1927 Blount founded the Supernatural Society to fight materialism with Christianity and simple living.  Blount died on 6th July 1937.  A number of memoriums were produced upon his death which provide an overview of his life (and have informed this piece).

Box designed by Godfrey Blount, from Studio International, Vol. 29


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