Friday, July 9, 2010

The Folk Art Skyline of London

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything, owing mainly to a great vacation trip I recently took to London. It was a family vacation, not a business trip, but as always I kept an eye out for great examples of folk art that would be useful and interesting comparisons to the traditions we have here in the United States.

I was not disappointed. Although the majority of the art shown in London museums reflects the voracious collecting of the British Empire (including cultures from across the span of recorded history and from around the globe) and in particular the enormous decorative arts collections of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the 19th century (mostly in the Victoria and Albert Museum), there were examples of folk art to be seen.

Only not in museums. Londoners, unlike Americans, live with their folk art in plain sight every day. The most obvious example of this phenomenon is the stunning array of gilded weathervanes that grace the skyline of the capital. Anywhere you happen to be in London, all you have to do is point your camera skyward and the chances are pretty good that you will catch a glint of sunlight (yes, we had great weather all week!) reflecting off a large weathervane.

You can find these vanes on churches, public buildings, row houses, and businesses. Since I was not able to see any up close I could not tell how many of them were old, but my guess would be that a good number are at least 19th-century examples. This is very different from what you would expect in an American city. It is also a reminder that the weathervane tradition is European in origin, and the weathervane industry in the United States followed the industrial model of England in particular.

So I hope you enjoy these snapshots of the beautiful artworks that may seem incidental to Londoners, but were remarkable integrations of art into everyday life when seen through my American eyes. In the coming weeks I’ll post more of what I saw on vacation, including some wonderful sculptures tucked away like prisoners in the Tower of London.


  1. Thanks, Liz! If it ever comes to that I'll give you a nice write-up in the acknowledgements for inspiring the project!

  2. I loved the blog show up at the Fenimore right now. And this recent entry has inspired me to keep my eye out (or up)for examples of folk art on my upcoming honeymoon to Florence. Move over Masaccio, Michaelangelo, and Donatello...I've got my eyes out for Anonymous!

  3. Thanks, Jamie! And Congratulations on getting married and spending your honeymoon in Florence! I did the same thing 20 years ago, and it was wonderful. Enjoy, and let me know what you find!


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