Monday, 20 November 2017

RUMINATING REPOST: CICELY MARY BARKER - THE FAIRY AND FLOWER GIRL...



I first showed these illustrations in two parts almost seven years back, but because they're worth seeing again, I decided to combine the two posts into a single unit.  Am I thoughtful or what?!

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Way back in the early '80s, I was at a Christmas Fayre in my old primary school and acquired a small publication called The LITTLE PICTURE HYMN BOOK.  For no other reason than one of accuracy, I should perhaps mention that it was a Christmas Fayre on behalf of the church across the road from my old house, but was held in the school at the bottom of the same street for reasons of space.  (The Fayre was bigger than the church building could accommodate, you see.)  Not that it's important, but I'm fuelled by a compulsion to be as precise as I can when relating these small matters of personal history.


Anyway, the book had attracted my attention because it was illustrated by CICELY MARY BARKER (1895-1973), a famous artist of fairies (and flowers), much in the mould of the Cottingley fairies photographs which had so entranced Sir ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE back around 1917-1920.  The book had a distinct charm and, through its colourful illustrations, conjured up a long-vanished era when children were children - and not the fractious, obnoxious creatures they are today.  One of the hymns in the booklet was "All Things Bright and Beautiful" which, in my previous primary in a different neighbourhood, my class had sung every morning just before the start of lessons.  I only had to hear (or read) a few lines of the hymn and I was transported back to practically the dawn of my childhood, so how could I resist buying the book for my very own collection?


Sometimes, when lying in bed at night, with nothing to read and bored out of my skull, I would dig out the book from my bedside drawer and look at the pictures - or even read "All Things Bright and Beautiful" to myself to remind me of my childhood days so many years before.  When we moved to a new house in 1983 and I found myself repeating the experience in my new abode, I couldn't do so without wistfully remembering doing the same thing in my old room in what seemed another life away.


Amazingly, just over four years later, we moved back to the previous house - where I still reside 30-plus years later.  Now, whenever I look through my little book of an evening, not only do I remember doing so in the same room of the same house nearly 35 years before, I also recall doing so in the other house while looking back on the one I now reside in - almost as if I'm observing myself through a window, watching myself through another window as I contemplate myself in the room in which I now sit looking back on the past.  Yeah, I know, it's a difficult one - you'll have to think about it for a moment.


So what's the point of all this philosophical rambling?  Merely this:  I wanted to explain the reasons why I now unleash upon you the twelve colour illustrations by Cicely Mary Barker from The Little Picture Hymn Book.  Looking at them, don't you feel like a little kid again, playing under the hot Summer sun in the grassy green fields of your childhood when you thought you'd be a child forever?

Someone tell me that it's not just me.


Anyway, enjoy the serenity and tranquility that these illustrations epitomize, and try to recall what it was like to be a child of another, far different era.






12 comments:

-3- said...

Rather feel like i've sparked a bit of backlash reaction, eh? ;)

Lovely work, the lot of them. I only somewhat remember the feeling you describe of Eternal Childhood. But it was fleeting. In part due to physical growth - i think i was 9 when i surpassed my mother's modest height. By 13 i'd reached 188cm and called it job done. So my own body was making me quite aware of how things were, and would be, changing at a pretty early point.

Anyway - back at CM Barker's pics... I'm particularly fond of that 3rd one of the Angelic Chorus. Also most fitting for a book of hymns. (And not at all because it was the 3rd illustration in the set) Her use of soft golds and muted blues works beautifully. After that one, it's her pics of the children that i like best, and it's easy to see how they trigger such ruminations for you.

I just finished a rambling post of reminiscences and such. I really wish i could have thought of ruminating while doing so. It's just the word i was looking for.

Kid said...

6' 2" at 13? They must have been putting Plant-Gro in your Weetabix. As regards CMB's pictures, it's a funny thing, but I don't really have much time for kids of today (too noisy, too cheeky, and too many of them), but I've got a sort of idealized notion of childhood, my own in particular, of which these pics remind me. The fields in the backgrounds of some of them recall to mind areas in which I played as a child.

-3- said...

I was never picked on as a freshman with that height. Actually, since i transferred in the middle of my freshman year with all that moving, most outside of my Freshman English class never even suspected i was a freshman.

A big plus for my childhood memories is that i generally lived in small communities in younger years. That made for much nicer overall experience with children. I like to think some of that survives today.
I'm probably delusional, but i like to think that.

Kid said...

Well, everyone has their own delusion. Mine is that I'm irresistible to women. I'll let you have yours if you let me have mine.

Oscar Dowson said...

These are gorgeous pics. No-one did childhood like the Edwardians.

Kid said...

When I look at them, OD, I'm instantly transported back to the days of my childhood - in primary school during the run-up to Christmas. Which is apt considering that I bought the book in my old primary school.

Colin Jones said...

When I was in primary school we had hymnbooks with 82 hymns in English (and more in Welsh but we never sang those). "All Things Bright And Beautiful" was hymn No.1 and "There Is A Green Hill Far Away" was hymn No.32 - it's strange the things we remember!

On the subject of height - I remember being in biology class when I was about 15 and the teacher Mr. O' Neill (who sadly died young from cancer) asked who was the tallest in the class. Everyone shouted "Colin, sir" and I had to suffer the indignity of being measured!

Kid said...

All Things Bright And Beautiful is #1 with me too, CJ. It reminds me of my first primary school and the fields from the end of the playground outside the classroom window. (They're all built on now, and have been for many a long year.)

As long as you weren't being measured for a box, eh? That would've been a killer. (Ooh, that was very nearly witty.)

Colin Jones said...

Kid, one of my favourite hymns was "Lord Of The Dance" - it wasn't till many years later that I discovered the tune was taken from "Appalachian Spring" by Aaron Copeland.

Kid said...

I never realised the Lord Of The Dance was considered a hymn, CJ. I thought it was 'just' a song.

Oscar Dowson said...

Lovely as they are, Kid, these don't transport me back to my childhood. It takes The Usborne Book of Vampires, Werewolves and Demons to do that. Or Les Edwards' painting of the Croglin Grange vampire. I was an odd child.

Ok, not strictly true. Before I turned to the Dark Side, my fave chilhood books were Badjelly the Witch by Spike Milligan, and The Indian in the Cupboard because Martin Jarvis read it on Jackanory.

Kid said...

I suppose it depends on one's age, OD. I never had the book as a child, so it doesn't remind me of my childhood in the same way that seeing a book I had as a kid would. However, it reminds me of my childhood because it conjures up a sense of that period of my youth as I remember it.

Martin Jarvis is brilliant when it comes to reading the William books.

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