Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cherry Artz

                                                   George Washington by Gilbert Stuart

In 1533 my very great Grandfather William Gilpin married a woman by the name of Elizabeth Washington. Several generations later in 1732 George Washington was born and several more generations later I was born making George Washington, the first President of the United States, my 15th cousin 7 times removed.

His official birthday is February 11 but we celebrate it on February 22. My birthday is officially February 5th but I celebrate it from the 1st through the 9th. So we have much more than genetics in common.

Discovering this immediately made me think of the legend of 6 year-old George, the hatchet and the doomed cherry tree. You remember the story it is told and retold to young school children all across America each year.

When George was about six years old, he was made the wealthy master of a hatchet of which, like most little boys, he was extremely fond. He went about chopping everything that came his way.

One day, as he wandered about the garden amusing himself by hacking his mother's pea sticks, he found a beautiful, young English cherry tree, of which his father was most proud. He tried the edge of his hatchet on the trunk of the tree and barked it so that it died.

Some time after this, his father discovered what had happened to his favorite tree. He came into the house in great anger, and demanded to know who the mischievous person was who had cut away the bark. Nobody could tell him anything about it.

Just then George, with his little hatchet, came into the room.

"George,'' said his father, "do you know who has killed my beautiful little cherry tree yonder in the garden? I would not have taken five guineas for it!''

This was a hard question to answer, and for a moment George was staggered by it, but quickly recovering himself he cried:

"I cannot tell a lie, father, you know I cannot tell a lie! I did cut it with my little hatchet.''

The anger died out of his father's face, and taking the boy tenderly in his arms, he said:

"My son, that you should not be afraid to tell the truth is more to me than a thousand trees! Yes - though they were blossomed with silver and had leaves of the purest gold!''

This tale was written by Mason L. Weems and published in 1809 ten years after Cousin George's death. The reason for this tale as well as others could have been to illustrate the larger than life and heroic qualities George exhibited later in his life. This moral tale that appeared for many years in the McGuffey Reader text book has become a part of American Mythology.

Parson Mason Weems
This portrait of Parson Weems appears above the mantelpiece at the Weems-Botts Museum in Dumfries, Virginia.

In honor of the cherry tree this week we present Cherry Artz

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

John Gilpin's Artz Adventure

I am minding my own business ghost hunting for the elusive parents of one Thomas Gilpin related to Rev. William Gilpin I focused on a couple of weeks ago. Thomas Gilpin is my 10th Great Grandfather. He died in 1628 in Caton, Lancashire, England. That is all I have going backwards. I have lots of info from his son Thomas moving forward so, I am digging in the most unlikely places such as, Googling for images with the words John Gilpin who happens to be a possibility for his father.

I start researching John Gilpin and I find a Ballad with an odd history covering it like frosting on a cake. The Ballad is called The Diverting History of John Gilpin. It is based on a real person and a real event. The Ballad was written 1782 by William Cowper. The story of John Gilpin's unfortunate accident was told to him by his friend Lady Anna Austen.

John is a very wealthy draper, a person who sells cloth and materials for clothing also known as a haberdasher. He had a shop in Cheapside, London which was a huge marketing square.

John owned property in Olney, Buckinghamshire which is historicly famous for its lace production. As fate would have it William Cowper who wrote the Ballad and is a well known English Poet and hymnist lived in Olney near the property owned by John.
                                         'Cowpers summer house Olney, Buckinghamshire'
                                         Engraved by H. Wallis Sc; Drawn by T.H. Shepherd Delt.

As it is told John, his wife and children become seperated from each other while traveling to the Bell Inn in Edmonton, London. John looses control of his horse and the animal travels 10 miles past Edmonton to the town of Ware.


Pub Location

John Gilpin, London Road, Ware, Herts
Mr. Cowper has had a lifelong battle with depression and is the grasp of it when Lady Austen tells him this tale. This story cheered him up so much so that he put it into verse. He publishes it annonymously in 1782 and again in 1785 and the public go wild for it; soon it is pirated and published everywhere in books of all kinds, etchings, toys,

 posters and even a clipper ship in 1852 is christened the John Gilpin in honor of the character.

The ship is best known for a race agaisnt the Flying Fish in 1852 and for it's fateful encounter with an iceberg.

In 1878 Randolph Caldecott illustrates the poem and it is republished. One of the illustrations of John Gilpin riding the runaway horse becomes the basis for the design of the Caldecott Medal. The nursery Rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence which was also illustrated by Caldecott has used as the basis for the other side of the medal.

The Caldecott Medal which was designed and created by Rene Paul Chambellan in 1937 is given once a year to recognize the most distinguihed American picture book for children. It is awarded to the illustrator.

Randolph Caldecott was and English artist and illustrator. He not only ilustrated childrens books but also drew cartoons, made sketches of The House of Parliament, exhibited sculptures and paintings in oil and watercolour in the Royal Acedemy. Van Gogh and Gauguin were some of his well known admirers.

This week enjoy John Gilpin's Artz Adventure.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Artz of Gallows

While I was researching paintings by William Gilpin two weeks ago I came across a piece he did called "Execution". It was haunting, and eerie and I did not use it. However, my curiousity was aroused by who was left there hanging, why, and were there other works of art that depicted a hanging or a gallows.
                                                          "Execution" William Gilpin

A gallows is a frame of wood used as a means of torture before during or after an execution by hanging. The gallows came into use shortly after Constantine the Great abolished crucifixion.
                    The execution of Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw in 1661.                   

The French word for gallows is potence from the Latin word potencia meaning power. They were errected as a grim reminder of the pwer of the judicial system or the whims of a king.
During the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries gallows were permanent structures and the bodies would remain hanging until they decompsed. These structures were built large and in very conspicous places. They were meant to be seen from far and wide and were a common sight. Since they were a part of the landscape, castle grounds, city squares they were included by artists.
                             Gallows near Kampen: summer view 1620-1625, by Hendrick Avercamp

Place names often contained the word gallows because of the frequency of use of the place. Gallows Corner in Havering, London, England. Gallow Hill, Huesbreck, Dunrossness, Shetland Island. Gallows Glen, Kildare, Ireland.
The inscription reads:  "The best preserved three-sided gallows in Germany - built in 1550 refurbished in 1597 - It served justice for the court of Beerfelden.  The condemned stood at the stone cross under the linden to receive the last rites.  The last execution was carried out in 1804,  a gypsy woman was executed for stealing a chicken and some bread." Lee Waite

This week we present the Artz of Gallows.