Monday, February 09, 2009

The Humble Art of the Victorian Period

From our private family collection, a post card with a scene in the background, surrounded by co-ordinating roses in the foreground.

The Kingdom of Home

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919)

In the dawn of the day, when the sea and the earth
Reflected the sunrise above,
I set forth, with a heart full of courage and mirth,
To seek for the Kingdom of Love.

I asked of a Poet I met on the way,

Which cross-road would lead me aright,
And he said: "Follow me, and ere long you will see
Its glistening turrets of Light."

And soon in the distance a city shone fair;
"Look yonder," he said, "there it gleams!"
But alas! for the hopes that were doomed to despair,
It was only the Kingdom of Dreams.

Then the next man I asked was a gay cavalier,
And he said: "Follow me, follow me."
And with laughter and song we went speeding along
By the shores of life's beautiful sea,

Till we came to a valley more tropical far
Than the wonderful Vale of Cashmere,
And I saw from a bower a face like a flower
Smile out on the gay cavalier,

And he said: "We have come to humanity's goal---
Here love and delight are intense."
But alas! and alas! for the hope of my soul---
It was only the Kingdom of Sense.

As I journeyed more slowly, I met on the road
A coach with retainers behind,
And they said:
"Follow us, for our lady's abode Belongs in the realm you would find."

'Twas a grand dame of fashion, a newly-wed bride;
I followed, encouraged and bold.
But my hope died away, like the last gleams of day,
For we came to the Kingdom of Gold

At the door of a cottage I asked a fair maid.
"I have heard of that Realm," she replied,
"But my feet never roam from the Kingdom of Home,
So I know not the way," and she sighed.

I looked on the cottage, how restful it seemed!
And the maid was as fair as a dove.
Great light glorified my soul as I cried,
"Why, home is the Kingdom of Love!"

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919)

Most of the art on this blog and other things I have written at LAF has been that of extremely talented painters of the Victorian era. It is truly inspiring and gives me a glimpse of the culture of that time.

There is another kind of art is often overlooked, that I feel I have more in common with. It was seen on greeting cards, calling cards, trade cards, and boxes of cocoa, tea, flour, baking powder, and other containers of the era. It was a simple art, not "great" but extremely sentimental. There is not much written about this type of art, such as who started it, where it came from, and what, if any, message was being portrayed. Today, it is called "Victorian Clip-Art" or "Victorian Graphics."

The picture at the top that you see before you when you first click on this post, is a farm scene in apple blossom time, surrounded by an enlarged apple-blossom in the front, as if you were looking through a pane.

These are free Victorian graphics from the web. Since I do not have the sources here, you can just type in "Free Victorian Graphics" and then go to the "scenery" sections of any of the sites you find.

This kind of art was a little scene of home, or maybe a town, a country road, a river, etc., enclosed in a shape, such as a circle, square, oval, or feathered. Around the shape were entwined vines and flowers or birds, which almost always "went" with the scene. For example, if it was a scene of a home, with flowers in the front yard, the oval would be surrounded by larger flowers of the same kind and color, in the foreground.

The doves in the above scene are happily playing in the foreground on a wreath of shamrocks, looking at the estate in the distance.

This is a circle with a blue sky in the background, covered in blossoms in the foreground. It is like looking through a little window.

Here is another piece of what is called "clip art" that would have been placed on a card. Notice the little scene in the rectangle, that matches the theme of the foreground.

This cottage in Sussex, Great Britain, would have been enclosed inside of any ivy vine or something that reflected the scene within.

Here is another example of this clip art, with the large trees in the front, representing the background scene.

This is my favorite, because it looks just like the home road that we walked on so many times, to the house of my childhood. The road was surrounded by common vines and flowers, all which were precious to us.

Here is a post card from one of the free Victorian graphic sites online, with two scenes inside of heart frames, adorned with violas, plenty of which might be inside the scene itself. These humble sketches made me think of the way homes were once situated: almost always on a little slope, with a tree near the house, and a winding road. With such a scene, home was even sweeter.

This one, inside of a diamond, surrounded by a close-up apple blossom, shows a church building in the distance with more trees in bloom.

Here is a frame that looks as though a fence was in the background.

This looks like a straw flower or an English daisy, surrounding a home and a barn, with a creek in the front.

Some scenes were painted inside of keyholes, like the ones at this shop: Please be sure to click on the picture for a larger view, on the link. If you have never experienced looking through a keyhole as a child, you will not understand how enchanting it was. When a child reached a certain height, he could see into the keyhole of the front door, out into the view in front of the house. Many scenes were framed in a child's eye view by a keyhole. I am so enchanted with this shape that I am trying my hand at creating a scene inside of a keyhole shape, surrounded by the wild rose and forget-me-nots, two flowers which grew near the road leading to the home of my childhood. If it comes to anything, I will post it.

In the meantime, our kitchen is almost complete, but we have begun using it so much that I have not been able to take a picture of the finished product. Hmmm...well, I tried. Crayon on textured cardstock.


Marqueta (Mar-kee-ta) G. said...

Dear Lady Lydia,

Thank you for sharing these! Although they may not be considered "high art", they certainly outdo what's offered in today's cards and advertising!

So sweet and beautiful.



Jessica said...

Thank you for sharing these beautiful pictures! I have been collecting victorian greetings to be used as home decorative items. I was fortunate to find Valentines Day cards from the Victorian era recently.

Anonymous said...

I love these even though I am a much bigger fan of paintings from Daniel Ridgeway knight. You did good on the drawing.

Jennifer @ Her Southern Charm said...

Oh, I just love the vintage feel of those picture. It actually feels like I could be there living in such wonderful times. Thanks for sharing. PS Gorgeous artwork! I'd love it if you headed over to my blog and shared your drawing in my crafty tuesdays.

Jenny said...

Thanks for sharing those, Lady Lydia. So charming.

Lydia said...

JUst wanted to remind any readers that the poem is more effective when read aloud to someone! Ella Wheeler Wilcox was the poet that wrote "It's easy enough to be pleasant, when life flows by like a song//But the one worthwhile is the one who can smile, when everything goes dead wrong."

Kelly @ The Barefoot Mama said...

How enchanting, Lady Lydia! I adore everything Victorian and seeing these prints shared here were such a treat tonight. Praying you enjoy a blessed weekend!

Barbara Jean said...

Wonderful art. thank you for telling me to check it out.

wow! have styles changed!
Wonderful patterns. Love the hat.

Barbara Jean