Here Lies Hephzibah

Back from deepest Cornwall, which among other things has incredibly elegant gravestones:
As well as some pretty crazy stained glass:
PS Apologies to anyone who’s tried to comment recently: I had to turn them off while I was away due to a flood of robot opinions. I’ll put them back on now but might have to switch them off again if the same thing happens…

London Superstition

The Lovett Collection of Superstitions at the Cuming Museum is a set of charms from London donated by Edward Lovett in 1916. There’s a brass acorn, above, used to protect against lightning; a soldier’s charm used to ward off the evil eye:
various objects to cure ailments, like a horseshoe to keep away nightmares, a bag with a child’s caul used to protect against drowning:
a necklace of acorns worn for diarrhoea; bread and hair given to a dog to cure a child’s whooping cough; a catskin for rheumatism:
and a mandrake root said to have curative powers:
What’s most surprising is how recent all these medieval-seeming curios are – but then there’s a shop in Brixton Market that sells lucky charms that look just like this one to protect sailors from drowning to this day:

Ness Battery

I came across these pictures of a visit to the abandoned Ness Battery on Orkney at BBC Scotland’s Island Blogging section. Blogger Stromness Dragon and a group of artists got to go inside this crumbling WWI military installation, where, among the rusty sheds and concrete bunkers, they came across these extraordinary paintings all over the walls of the mess hall, possibly done by the soldiers, depicting Arcadian scenes of rural English life: children in a forest, a gypsy caravan, a pub, a tea shop. The BBC Scotland site seems to be defunct now, but you can follow Stromness Dragon and the further story of the Battery here.

The Museum of Everything

The best thing on in London at the moment is Exhibition #1 at the Museum of Everything in Primrose Hill, James Brett’s collection of “non-traditional art” tucked away in the ramshackle setting of an old dairy. All the work is presented with respect for its own merits, avoiding the usual dangers of an outsider-art freakshow (“Hey! Look at the crazy man’s house!”) Magnifying glasses hang in the main hall so you can appreciate Guo Fengyi’s drawings of beings that seem to be made of swirling hair or Augustin Lesage’s tiny dots – incredibly painstaking detail being a common feature. Paintings inspired by religious visions such as those of Sister Gertrude Morgan get their own little chapel, and Henry Darger’s pictures of girls rescued from a storm by children with wings and horns are laid out in sequence so you can follow the story. Plus tea and cakes at the end. It’s supposed to finish in December so go soon.

Speed fight on!

I think we’ve all had enough stripper memoirs and ironic domestic goddess stuff now, thanks, so please can everyone go and have a look at the Women’s Library’s splendid collection of rousing suffragette banners, for a reminder that our grandmothers were made of sterner stuff.

Crazy Embroidery

The many samplers which the V & A has in its collection are remarkable not just for the amazing needle skillz of the very young makers, but the fact that it looks as if these girls had to embroider absolutely everything – not just the standard scenes:
but their family trees:
Geography lessons:
Even science:

The Enjoyment of the People

This 1945 King Penguin about “art as practised by artists of the people for the enjoyment of the people” has an essay by Noel Carrington (who I think was the brother of Dora) about the survival of folk art on coaches, in fairgrounds and on musical instruments. Even then he was lamenting its disappearance under the influence of mainstream culture: “I noted with regret that the lettering on a little train roundabout in which my children had embarked was in the sober sanserif type designed by Eric Gill.” I like the illustrations by Clarke Hutton:

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