Janus in Great Bardfield

It’s 1949.  Britain is about to begin building the new world after the war.  But as we already know, not everyone wants to look forward or be modern.

King Penguin Life in An English Village Bawden 1949

This is Edward Bawden’s Life in An English Village, published in the format of King Penguin that year.  As the very first line of the essay by Noel Carrington makes clear, this book is a record of a village almost as a historical fossil rather than a living entity.

Because most of us in England have for long dwelt in towns or suburbs of towns, it is inevitable that we should come to know the countryside dweller in secondhand fashion; that is to say, largely through books.

The drawings are of Bawden’s own adopted village of Great Bardfield, in Essex, showing traditional figures like the vicar, or old fashioned shops.

King Penguin Life in An English Village Edward Bawden 1949 vicar

King Penguin Life in An English Village Edward Bawden 1949 baker

In many ways this little book is a response to Ravilious’s High Street, in which he is recording some of the more idiosyncratic shops which are already disappearing from towns before the war.

King Penguin Life in An English Village Edward Bawden 1949 butcher

The sixteen colour lithographs are wonderful, but I almost prefer the line drawings which are scattered throughout the essay, each one celebrating some visual detail that he has observed.

King Penguin Life in An English Village Edward Bawden 1949 dogs line drawing

None of which are, naturally, modern.

King Penguin Life in An English Village Edward Bawden 1949 teapots line drawing

I’ve commented a few times before on how this period is a curious time in British design, and perhaps in the way that people are feeling overall.  The country really is looking forward to a time of equality, plenty and modernism.  But at the same time, some people are aware that when a new era begins, an old one must end.

The more I think about this, the more it reminds me of a new year: plenty of people are looking into the future, but some are still reminiscing about the year which has passed, and which can never be retrieved again.  The Romans knew what they were doing when they made Janus two-faced.

  • Lovely pictures.

    Coincidentally, just this morning I was steaming about one of eBay’s Burke and Hare characters who offers the world this.

    Maybe Jack the Ripper is a better epithet. One who takes razors to a living book and leaves its guts strewn about the alleyways of eBay.

    … and then has the nerve to produce this patronising and misspelt guff:

    Official War Artist with works in important colections inc. Royal Family.

    ( Yes – you can own an ORIGIONAL PRINT by an artist that HRH The Queen owns works by !)

    A Great artist in the true English School of REAL Painting – with a light touch for humour.

    THIS is an ORIGIONAL lithograph by the artist.

    One to add to my little black book. Goes off, muttering…

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