Tag Archives: Alfred Wallis

Gift Wrapping and Seafaring Artists Tale

Who Will Be The Lucky Recipients?, Rocking Dog

Who Will Be The Lucky Recipients?

On Tuesday I took my lovely octogenarian friend to the Holburne Museum in Bath. Currently on display is a temporary exhibition of paintings from the Swindon Collection, entitled Gwen John to Lucian Freud, Home and the World. One painting I particularly loved was one by Alfred Wallis, Ship amid Tall Waves. The painting inspired me to do a naive interpretation in the form of a pen drawing on black tissue for a gift I needed to wrap.

The catalogue gave me a gist of Wallis’s life and I wanted to make it into a little tale for children, so here goes!

160 years ago (that’s a VERY long time) a little boy called Alfred Wallis was born in a seaside town in Devon. Alfred simply loved the sea, and when he was nine he said goodbye to his parents and went off to be a cabin boy on a big ship. I rather suspect that you would prefer to be on a boat rather than going to school, especially if there’s Maths! Life must have been quite tough for young Alfred, with sea sickness, home-sickness, lots of shoes to polish and clothes to wash. When he was a little bit older he became a fisherman and caught fish in the icy waters near Canada.

Eventually he decided that he wanted to come home and have a little cottage and garden, no more adventures at sea. He met a lady called Susan and after asking her to marry him, they settled in the beautiful little Cornish town called St Ives. He had a job as a Rag and Bone Man. People would bring out pieces of furniture and junk they no longer wanted. Alfred would then repair and sell on some of the junk. He and Susan were poor, but very happy, they loved walking on the beach and drinking tea together in their little cottage.

After a few years Susan died, and Alfred was very, very sad. To help himself feel better he decided to start painting pictures. He loved to paint ships and the sea, and can you believe that Alfred even used ship paint to paint his pictures! As he was very poor and couldn’t afford proper paper, the kind shopkeeper would save him cardboard from boxes that had contained apples, cabbages and all sorts of other things. The cardboard suited Alfred just so!

One day two famous artists called Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood happened to be visiting St Ives.They passed Alfred’s little cottage and being very nosey looked through the open door. They saw lots of Alfred’s ship paintings nailed to the wall and were enchanted by them. They knocked on the door and spoke to Alfred, telling him how how much they loved his work. They supplied him with paint, and introduced him to rich people who they were sure would want to buy Alfred’s paintings.

Despite the help from many artists who appreciated his talents, Alfred was still very poor and very old. He went to live in the workhouse. I don’t know if you know anything about workhouses, but they were very tough places, with strict rules and no luxuries. The Government did not want to encourage people to live there, it really was for people who had no other option. Many workhouse residents were orphans, or very poor, ill or like Alfred very old. Residents would be given food, clothing and a bed. Those that were fit enough would have to work to earn their keep.

Poor Alfred eventually died in the workhouse at the age of eighty seven. Lots of artists came to his funeral and they were very sad. Alfred’s grave is a magnificent one, with tiles by Bernard Leach, featuring a little seafarer stepping up into a huge lighthouse. The grave itself looks out onto the sea, with its bobbing fishing boats, foamy surf and glinting orange sun which rises and falls on the horizon.

I wonder what Alfred would think about the fact that his little cardboard boat pictures are now seen by millions of people every year in galleries all around the world.

Gift wrap detail-
Black Gift- tissue paper, anchor button, thick bakers twine,”Signo” white pen, sticky tape
Pink Gift- tissue paper, ribbon, rosette (made up of varying sized material circles cut with Pinking Shears, leaf shapes, old velvet hat decorations, button), “Love” ticket (Hobbycraft), Glue gun, sticky tape.

Unadorned, Rocking Dog

Unadorned

Frouing Kit, Rocking Dog

Frouing Kit

Rosette Detail, Rocking Dog

Rosette Detail