Thursday, 16 January 2014

Peasant Art Exhibition, Charterhouse 1902

The Carthusian, April 1902, reported on a Peasant Art Exhibition at Charterhouse, Godalming.  This is of interest as Gerald Davies, a Master at Charterhouse, sold his peasant art collection in 1908 to the Peasant Arts Guild, which then displayed the collection in Kings Road's Peasant Arts Museum and these items are now displayed in Haslemere Educational Museum.

The Carthusian's review of the museum displays a particular understanding of peasant art, and it is interesting to note that Gertrude Jekyll had loaned some of the items.

"Of the Loan Exhibitions which have been held in the Museum, the present is not the least remarkable – in some ways the most remarkable – though not so likely to appeal to the general taste as some which have gone before,’ for example the delightful Watts and Cecil Lawson Exhibition of a few years back.  If novelty goes for anything then so far as that goes, we suspect that there were four visitors to whom the Peasant Art of Europe was not almost entirely new.  

The 700 objects brought together in the Museum and Lecture Room were the loan of Mr. Girdlestone, Miss Gertrude Jekyll (our kind neighbour of ‘House and Garden’ fame) Mr. J. W. Marshall, Miss Moss, Mrs Robertson, and the Rev. G.S. Davies, and it is not too much to say that out of that large number of homely objects which came from the hand and brain of humble and uninstructed peasants between the years 1400 and 1902 there was scarcely one which did not repay examination.  Indeed the fault of the show was that it demanded rather too much from spectator.  

Amongst the designs were a large number of very great beauty, and it would not be easy to point to a bad one: - it would, we think, be quite impossible to point out even one in which the ornament interfered with the proclaimed use of the article or in which the ornament was rendered invisible while the article was being put to the proper use.  And here you have the very first cardinal principle of all applied art – a principle which is almost always violated by the amateur decorator; and even by the professional decorator who makes his goods to sell.  The peasant, happily untrammelled by any law of art, follows his healthy instinct and produces an object which is at once beautiful, sensible and honest..."

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