The Genius of Mechanical Invention Uniting Agriculture & Commerce

The Genius of Mechanical Invention Uniting Agriculture & Commerce. Plaster. “A plaster freize at Paddockhurst. . .” by Permission of Sir Weetman D. Pearson, Bart., M.P.” Source: The Work of Walter Crane — the Art Journal’s 1898 Easter Art Annual, p. 18. Click on image to enlarge it.

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Crane’s description of the decorative program of which this bas relief is a part

Bolder relief, necessitated” by the conditions of lighting, was adopted in a [this] plaster frieze — in this case modelled first in clay on fibrous plaster ground and moulded” by Mr. Priestley — designed for another room of Mr. Aston Webb’s, a dining-room for Sir Weetman Pearson, at Paddockhurst. The scheme of this one was a frieze, divided into panels of various lengths according to the structural divisions of the wall, embodying,” by means of typical groups, a sort of short and playful history of locomotion and transport.

The principal panels on one side showed primitive man with his squaw and child on foot, he carrying his game across his shoulders, she her baby at her back in the manner of the Indian and the gipsy, and the child she is leading, dragging a primitive toy-a reindeer after him. A group of wild horses is in front of them; two men are struggling to hold and to mount two of the horses, while a third, to typify man’s conquest of the horse, and the advantage it gave him, is riding off, triumphantly poising his spear. There is here a break caused” by the arcade of a music gallery, and on the other side the story leads on to the launching of the primitive canoe” by the early boatbuilder, or lake-dweller, who has placed his family on board and is pushing off. They are regarded curiously — or rather looked back upon — from a passing wagon of the primitive Aragon type with solid wooden discs for wheels, drawn” by oxen. The family, with the household stuff, sits inside or on the shaft, and the patriarch walks alongside the oxen with his goad and his dog. A considerable jump in time must be pre-supposed between this and the next panel, which, however, occurs at the further end of the room, and represents transport” by water” by means of the canal boat. Two boys of the Sandford and Merton period watch the wonder, having respectively a toy ship and a toy cart and horse in their hands. This panel is balanced” by one showing a stage-coach with four-in-hand careering along the road, with inside and outside passengers, and the guard blowing his horn. Then we cross to the window side, where the panels are more subdivided. Here the navvy and the railroad appear, the nursemaid and perambulator, the bicycle, and finally the motor car, rather fancifully treated. Then balancing each other at each end of this portion of the frieze, which runs narrow over the tops of the windows, are allegorical figures, namely, Labour and Science giving wings to the wheel” by means of which‘ Labour and Science give wings to the world.

Finally, in the panels divided” by the projection of the chimney breast, are placed symbolical subjects: one being the Genius of Mechanical (or Engineering) Invention uniting Agriculture and Commerce; and the other, the Genius of Electricity uniting (by the telegraph) the parts of the earth—Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Australia. . . . The frieze has been toned,” by wax and colour rubbed in, to a darkish ivory tint, as the wall below it is panelled in mahogany. [17-18]

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The Work of Walter Crane with Notes by the Artist. The Easter Art Annual for 1898: Extra Number of the “Art Journal”. London: J. S. Virtue, 1898. Internet Archive version of a copy in the Getty Art Institute. Web. 3 January 2018.

Last modified 4 January 2018