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The gangs who terrorised London Pavement Artists!

It’s easy to look at the past through rose tinted glasses, painting a romantic picture of the Romany life of the pavement artist, but the reality was very different; unlike today’s street painters, there was no soft cushion of an organised event.

Pavement artists lived on the fringes of society, a lawless wild west with dangers to be faced every day. I have read reports of artists being robbed, beaten-up and even kidnapped and murdered by criminal gangs; this came on top of the threat of arrest by the police for begging and vagrancy.

London Street-artist near Charing Cross Station. 1932

London Street-artist near Charing Cross Station. 1932

In the 1930’s, there was a touch of American gangsterism about claims that London’s pavement artists had been terrorised by racketeers. Out of every shilling collected by the artist, eight pence would go to the bullies for “protection.”

The screever treasured his little bit of pavement. The flagstones the serious artist used for his canvas, required months of preparation and smoothing to make the “pitch” just right. Gangs would watch this work with great interest, when the artist had settled down he was told he needs “protection.” If he does not agree to pay, his life would become unbearable.

Sleeping artist, outside the National Gallery, London 1935.

Sleeping artist, outside the National Gallery, London 1935.

It would start with minor irritations….a broken bottle of oil, accidentally spilled by a careless passer-by, just after the morning’s work is finished, making a re-drawing necessary.  Before long, the pavement artist is glad to have “protection.” It saves him from being beaten up and robbed on the way home, or his pitch being covered in petrol and tar. Artists where often forced to buy their chalks from the gang boss, at extortionate prices.

Pitches which are worked with movable pictures (boardmen) were milked differently. Artists had to “rent” the pitch by the hour, and even the pictures where rented from criminal gangs. Certain artists where helped by babies and dogs, hired from the gang, a pathetic-looking dog would cost more to hire than a good-looking dog.

London street-artist (Boardman) with dog 1935.

London street-artist (Boardman) with dog 1935.

Artists without fixed pitches where the most difficult to deal with, so racketeers would send out “inspectors” who would travel across London, working on commission and extorting money from the casual screever or beggar.

This became a lucrative trade for criminals, with so many artists and musicians working the streets every day.

It became so bad in the 1930’s, that artists even considered forming their own union to help combat intimidation from bullying street gangs. This was not a new trick of course, and reports go back to the mid 1850’s when artists shared the streets with dancing bears, bull baiters and dog fighting gangs.


Written & researched by Philip Battle

Visit my Artists of The Paving Stone page on Facebook!

Winston Churchill (1914-1965)


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Taming the Black Dog!

In 1933, George Orwell described a screever as possibly one of the most interesting characters he had ever encountered. He also told us that on a good day, pavement artists could be found every 25 feet along the Thames Embankment; a fact that was well documented, right up until the 1960’s.

No surprise then that Winston Churchill encountered them during his parliamentary business. He was often seen admiring the work of the humble street painter and later wrote about it in his 1949 book “Painting as a Pastime.” Indeed, he cited the pavement artist as a major reason for him to take up painting as a hobby.

Churchill the Painter; in his studio at Chartwell House.

Churchill the Painter; in his studio at Chartwell House.

As he stated in his book “I stood agape before the chalk of the pavement artist” …in 1914, at the age of 40, feeling inspired, he bought himself a set of oil paints after dabbling one Sunday morning with the children’s paint box.  He said “I consider myself very lucky that late in life, I have been able to develop this new taste and pastime,” adding “To have reached the age of 40 without ever handling a brush, or fiddle with a pencil, to have regarded with mature eye the painting of pictures of any kind as a mystery.”

For Churchill, the pavement artist was a magical encounter and inspiration. He became a “hobby artist” until he died in 1965. He often said that art kept THE BLACK DOG at bay; it was his nick-name for depression, which he suffered from throughout his life.

Winston Churchill’s association with pavement art goes way back; in 1923, it was reported in the Nottingham Evening Post that “Winston’s strongly marked features are a favourite subject with pavement artists”

Churchill the Pavement Artist; as featured in Punch Magazine 1933.

Churchill the Pavement Artist; as featured in Punch Magazine 1933.

By the time of the Second World War, Churchill’s features had been well and truly established, often trodden under the feet of the pavement passenger; but come 1943 and a new face was taking pride of place in the screever’s armoury. It was reported that “GENERAL MONTGOMERY seems to have supplanted Mr Churchill in the affections of the London pavement artist. They find his features easier to reproduce than the features of the Prime Minister.”

Churchill referred to these “very clever” artists as “the Rembrandts of the street.”

Dropping a few coins into the hat of a favoured artist of the day, humour never deserted him, even in the darkest days of the war; he summoned one of his Generals (Colonel T.J. Cowen) to bring war maps to 10 Downing Street; outside, he found him making last minute alterations, kneeling on the pavement with his cap by his side.  The Prime Minister looked down, threw a penny in the hat and walked away.

…..and that’s how we won the war!


Written and researched by Philip Battle

Visit my Artists of The Paving Stone page on Facebook!



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How much do pavement artists earn?

As a pavement artist, one of the most frequent questions I get asked is “Do you make a living from this?”

The Beggars Petition! Arthur Orton 1871© Trustees of the British Museum

The Beggars Petition! Arthur Orton 1871© Trustees of the British Museum

In 1911, it was reported that over 1000 pavement artists where making a “full-time” living on the streets of England’s capital city London. Barely 10 years before it was around 500. The art-form was clearly growing, and in certain quarters, screevers had become tourist attractions in their own right.

A popular newspaper of the day surveyed “children from the country” asking them on visiting London “What would be in your top ten” no surprises then when at number five came the reply “seeing those FUNNY MEN drawing on the pavement!”

Reg Maurice postcard 1914

Reg Maurice postcard 1914

Artists where earning a living, but how much? Collectively, we don’t know, as no records or tax returns where taken; it was assumed that many where simply eking-out a living on the margins of society, depending on the scraps falling from the big table. How much an individual earned, could depend much more on luck than artistic talent; being in the right place, at the right time, appealing to public sympathy and hoping that the weather didn’t take a turn for the worst.

As in any walk of life, there are always the hangers-on, the “cadger screevers,” the ones who give everybody a bad name. Artists who couldn’t draw, the ones who pretended they had drawn something when they hadn’t; the con-artists & the aggressive beggars; pavement art had more than its fair share of these types, this left a negative impression with members of the public, perceiving an art-form peopled by “beggars & scroungers” and tarring everybody with the same brush.

But this view was as shallow as the flagstone surface on which a pavement painting was drawn upon. There were many artists who choose to become screevers not through necessity of means, but by a choice of lifestyle and furtherance of their art. These where the most successful, and gained respect and admiration among their peers; many of these “true artists” became successful careerists, and worked the streets full-time for 30, 40, 50 and even 60 years all told. Some would sell prints or take private portrait commissions on the street, anything to supplement and see them through the winter months and rainy days.

The “cadger-screevers” generally earned pennies and were very opportunistic in their approach, whereas the professional pavement artist could earn a fairly decent living.

In 1945, it was reported that Newcastle pavement artist Jimmy Morrison (83 years old) had handed a brown-paper package to a neighbour before he died.  When police opened the parcel they found Jimmy had a total of £2,000 in two bank accounts (£77,300 in today’s money) plus a further £282 (£10,900 today) in notes, silver and coppers.  In wet or fine weather, Jimmy was always at his pitch, close to Newcastle’s Central Station; obviously, the pennies steadily clinked into his “greasy cap”

Alfred Horton 5 shillings an hour in winter!

Alfred Horton 5 shillings an hour in winter!

In 1953, Cockney pavement artist, Alfred Horton won first prize of £5 (£126 today) in the National Handicraft & Hobbies Pavement Art Competition at Central Hall, London. At the time, he claimed to be earning as little as 5 shillings an hour in winter (£6.28 today) compared with 30 shillings (£37.66) an hour in summer!

In the 1960’s, it was claimed that London screever Bob Hanley, earned enough on a daily basis to have his children educated at a private school!

In 1921, the Daily Express newspaper reported that pavement artist Alfred Parrott, of James Street, Holloway, was earning in the region of £600 per year (£23,500 today) Parrott’s daughter said that when the weather was fine he earned between £1 and £2 per day.  (£39-£78 per day) He also supplemented his income by painting portraits in oils & chalks.

In 1924, it was reported in the same newspaper that “A good pitch produces more than £1 per day!” (£53)

In 1901, the Sheffield Evening Telegraph claimed that a local pavement artist was earning 13 shillings a day at his pitch in Sheffield city centre. (£70 in today’s money)

Some pavement artists where earning so much money, that in the 1930’s, criminal gangs where using extortion; forcing pavement artists to pay “protection money” to stay on their pitch….either that or get beaten-up, robbed & have petrol poured over your art!

So, how much does a pavement artist earn…..well, how long is a piece of chalk?


Written and researched by Philip Battle

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A pavement artist for a day!

“A more holistic and basic idea of wanting to incorporate [art] into every part of life, less as an egotistical exercise and more natural somehow. I don’t know how to exactly explain it. Taking it off the pedestal. I’m giving it back to the people, I guess.” Keith Haring

American "Pop Artist" KEITH HARING. 1985

American “Pop Artist” KEITH HARING. 1985

Keith Allen Haring (May 4, 1958 – February 16, 1990) was an American artist and social activist whose work responded to the New York City street culture of the 1980s by expressing concepts of birth, death, sexuality, and war. Haring’s work was often heavily political and his imagery has become a widely recognized visual language of the 20th century.

Pop Artist KEITH HARING surrounded by on-lookers Japan 1985

Pop Artist KEITH HARING surrounded by on-lookers Japan 1985

In 1985, he created this live art happening in chalk, on the streets of Japan. It was recorded by photographer Juan Rivera of Roulette Fine Arts.

KEITH HARING: Watched by a trio of young fans. Japan 1985

KEITH HARING: Watched by a trio of young fans. Japan 1985

“The context of where you do something is going to have an effect. The subway drawings were, as much as they were drawings, performances. It was where I learned how to draw in public. You draw in front of people. For me it was a whole sort of philosophical and sociological experiment. When I drew, I drew in the daytime, which meant there were always people watching. There were always confrontations, whether it was with people that were interested in looking at it, or people that wanted to tell you you shouldn’t be drawing there…”

Elevated view of KEITH HARING at work in Japan 1985

Elevated view of KEITH HARING at work in Japan 1985

“I was learning, watching people’s reactions and interactions with the drawings and with me and looking at it as a phenomenon. Having this incredible feedback from people, which is one of the main things that kept me going so long, was the participation of the people that were watching me and the kinds of comments and questions and observations that were coming from every range of person you could imagine, from little kids to old ladies, or art historians.”

KEITH HARING drawing in chalk on the streets of Japan 1985

KEITH HARING drawing in chalk on the streets of Japan 1985

Between 1980 and 1985, Haring produced hundreds of these public drawings, sometimes creating as many as forty drawings in one day.

Overhead view of Keith Haring's chalk drawing. Photo by Juan Rivera of Roulette Fine Arts. 1985

Overhead view of Keith Haring’s chalk drawing. Photo by Juan Rivera of Roulette Fine Arts. 1985

Haring died on Friday February 16, 1990 of AIDS-related complications.


Written & researched by Philip Battle.

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Lapped it up! (1902)


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A tasty description of a Pavement Artist

From an issue of The Tatler Magazine, 1902.

Half their description is right enough, for they certainly draw on the pavement. Probably one who was an artist as well would make his fortune at the business, for the public is always fond of a novelty.

There is even a species that does not draw on the pavement; pieces of cardboard are used which are propped against a wall. This is scarcely a change for the better as the drawings on the pavement itself will be washed out by a shower of rain.

Both sorts have the same stock in trade. The pavement artist’s empire is one on which the sun always sets; there will invariably be a sunset. Also there will be a herring on a plate to prove that there are more wonderful fish out of the sea than ever went into it. And there will be a young lady with yellow curls and oh, such lovely black eyes; and there will be portraits of our Great Generals which will make their wives wonder how they could have married them, and explains, perhaps, why we have not more Great Generals.

TATLER: Illustration by SH Sime 1902.

TATLER: Pavement artist illustration by SH Sime 1902.

Yet one must not blame the pastelliste du pave, for realism has its drawbacks. “But, my man, that is not a bit like milk in that saucer,” said a passer-by one day pointing to one of the drawings on the pavement. “No, it ain’t, and it ain’t intended to be,” answered the artist with some heat. “I did one like the real thing once, it took me close on two hours, and then a beastly dog came and lapped it up!”

Written by Walter Emanuel

Published in THE TATLER magazine, England. (8th October 1902)


Researched by Philip Battle

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Encounter with a London Pavement Artist.

In 1951, writer and illustrator Francis Marshall (1901-1980) wrote this eloquent account of his encounter with a London Pavement artist. It was published in his charming LONDON BOOK; a guide and insight to London’s life and culture of the 1940’s and 50’s.

THE LONDON BOOK: cover illustration by Francis Marshall 1951.

THE LONDON BOOK: cover– illustration by Francis Marshall 1951.

Here it is, transcribed in full:

THOUSANDS of people stream past him every day. “I know ‘em,” he told me, “I can spot ‘em.” And from his curious vantage point he is certainly in a position to learn something about human nature, for his living depends on it. He is a pavement artist.

“You think it’s all humbug,” he said accusingly. I had perhaps harboured some such idea, but on second thoughts I felt quite incapable of such a categorical opinion. He was too sure of himself. Goodness knows he had little reason for pride in any merely artistic sense, for his chalked scrolls and messages of good luck were indifferent specimens of the type of art that adorns ice-cream carts and coco-nut shires, and an industrious infant could have bettered the cats and cottages and rising suns he had inflicted on the paving stones. But he sat there so much at his ease on the little cushion he had made for himself, and so obviously regarded it as part of the fitness of things that he should sit there, that I recognized his confidence as being akin to that with which the engine-driver leans out of his cab or that with which the stage-doorkeeper regards enthusiasts with too personal an interest in the drama, and I began to think that it probably wasn’t humbug after all.

“If you don’t keep an eye on ‘em they nip past,” he said, watching the approach of an elderly gentleman with suspicion. The gentleman cast a surreptitious glance over the display, looked up, and was fixed by the basilisk regard of the artist.

“Thank you sir,” he said commandingly, “good luck to you!” A sixpence tinkled into the greasy cap, strategically placed a little farther along the pavement. The artist relaxed.

“Don’t they like to have a look though,” he said, “and once they’ve looked, they feel a bit guilty, I reckon, and that’s when I do the trick with giving ‘em a look back.”

He told me that he had had a street pitch for half a century. Rheumatism in his youth had prevented him going to work. I could not imagine a way of life less suited to a rheumaticky subject than sitting on the pavement in the London climate, but he seemed to have thriven on it. I did not ask if the treatment had cured his rheumatism, for illness is a subject which, once embarked upon, makes time pass more slowly than any other topic of conversation there is, but if it had, no later desire to go to work appeared to have worked very strongly upon him. He had a better colour than the office folk who hurried past him in fear of the clock while he sat there, greeting them cheerfully, and smoking a short pipe, with a professional growth of stubble and a cosy woollen choker knotted negligently round his neck.

A couple of smart girls with neat paper parcels came tapping past on high heels. He eyed them tolerantly as they went by without making any contribution to the cap.

“Gals is smarter nowadays,” he said contemplatively, “but they wos more fetchin’ before the Ole War.” I ventured to remark that they had not become patrons of art.

“Young gals never does,” he said, “not often. It’s the old ‘ums every time. I’ve one old gal—lives in one of them hotels round the corner there—comes every blessed Friday there is an’ drops a tanner. Regular customer she is. An’ not the only one—there’s a lot o’folk in London glad to have a word—pass the time o’ day, ‘ow are you, and thank you very much.” I pondered this.

Pavement Artist illustration by Francis Marshall 1951.

Pavement Artist illustration by Francis Marshall 1951.

“Wot’s the caper?” he demanded truculently and I saw two schoolboys in spectacles had halted to criticize the architectural qualities of the cottage he had drawn. Intimidated, they passed on. He reminisced.

“Morning after Mafficking—which you’ll not remember—two tarts an’ a feller in tails come and washed the ‘ole blooming pitch with a bottle o’ bubbly. And a copper come up and makes ‘em give me a sovereign….”

I raised the matter of finance delicately. No figures were forth-coming; I gathered that the Inland Revenue authorities had not been given any extra work on his account. He said: “I shan’t go to no workhouse.” He puffed his pipe luxuriously. “I’ve got me bacca, and tin for a wet, and I sleep dry.” I thought of the man in Conan Doyle who kept up bourgeois state on the proceeds of street begging. He looked at me shrewdly. I felt that a man who spent his life watching people’s faces was more of a thought-reader than most of us who spend our time staring at writing or factory benches. “I don’t come to me work in no Rolls Royce,” he said, disclosing dentures that were badly in need of nationalization. But it was a friendly smile.

A man in a bowler hat who might have been a barrister called “Good morning”, as he hurried past.

“Morning’ to you, sir,” shouted the artist, “enjoyed your ‘oliday?” He turned to me. “Very nice gentleman, that,” he said, “I missed ‘im during the war. Never passes without a word.”

It was borne in upon me that though the man on the pavement had been making his living as an artist for half a century without acquiring the rudiments of how to draw, he was an artist just the same. An artist in human sympathy? Perhaps that is it. People were certainly none the worse for him being there, and his unfailing cheerfulness was a pleasant feature of the streetscape. He was a landmark, with the power of answering back.

I made a small contribution to the cap. “Not obliged to,” he said.

I insisted politely. He took the coin out, looked at it carefully, and slipped it in his pocket.

“I’ll drink it then,” he said, thus elevating me from being a mere client, “but you ain’t obliged. Write books, doncher?” I admitted it. How the devil did he know?

“Ah well,” he said, “it’s the same as me, ain’t it? Servants o’ the public.”

I felt better for meeting him.

Written by Francis Marshall

Francis Marshall Cir.1950.

Francis Marshall Cir.1950.

Francis Marshall was a prolific magazine and fashion illustrator, who’s easy and accomplished drawings between 1929 and the 1960s did much to set the image of fashionable London.

Born in 1901, he had been educated for the Navy, but in the middle 1920’s he resigned his commission, having decided upon an artists’ career. He set out to study at the Slade School.

In 1928, he was taken on by Vogue where he remained until the war in 1939 took him back into the navy and off to Bath, where he served as a Camouflage Officer for the duration of the war. He was British Vogue’s star illustrator. He was distinctively English in the quality of his social observation, picking up pointers of class and social standing that show elegance and chic.

He continued to be active as a freelance illustrator after the Second World war, illustrating for the Paris couturiers but not for Vogue. He accumulated an impressive body of work to his credit.

Francis Marshall died in 1980 at the age of 79.


Transcribed and researched by Philip Battle

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The Singing Street (1951-1964)


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The games children play!

In the 1950’s and 60’s, a group of Edinburgh school teachers embarked on a unique study of children’s street games and play activities. They called themselves THE NORTON PARK GROUP (Norton Park School, Edinburgh). In 1951 they produced a film called The Singing Street; games filmed in the streets of Edinburgh and accompanied by traditional children’s songs.

Opening Title from THE SINGING STREET 1951

Opening Title from THE SINGING STREET 1951

The publicity leaflet to the film stated: In songs where ancient ritual, myth, the mountain and the rose, mingle with taxis, telephones and powder-puffs. Old rhymes rarely dying – something new always appears. No-one asks “What does this mean?” The world’s accepted, poetry’s kept alive. Not meant for education or entertainment.

MARBLES: Chalk based street-game from THE SINGING STREET

MARBLES: Chalk based street-game from THE SINGING STREET

In children’s street-games, song, dance and chalking art intermingle seamlessly into the purest form of creative expression known as “the art of play.”

"Six Little Angels by my Side" from THE SINGING STREET

“Six Little Angels by my Side” from THE SINGING STREET

In 1964, one of the films directors James T. Ritchie, produced a book of the same name, the book cover included a chalk drawing and a chapter called ART IN THE STREET, which focused on children’s chalking art. In the book he states; that for almost three seasons of the year you will see the “peevers-artist”

Whenever the crocuses start to thrust through in the parks, and the thrill of longer light heartens everybody, the girls are down on their knees, chalking up the beds and giving each figure they make their own plain or flourishing style.”  

The Singing Street Book Cover 1964

The Singing Street Book Cover 1964

White chalk was the favourite medium, and on pavements and walls drawings would appear; the criss-cross games of OXO, along with a multitude of other decorations, shapes and symbols, hearts drawn with kisses, a cupid’s arrow, and then some initials; JS loves MM. The back streets have smooth stretches, greatly appreciated by certain artists. A place where children aged seven to nine do some marvellous drawings. One week they have bouts of drawing brides, and the next week houses—provided the rain showers have scoured the streets clean.

From the book: Playing Out at ALBION TERRACE, Edinburgh 1964.

From the book: Playing Out at ALBION TERRACE, Edinburgh 1964.

You also get houses in hearts, hearts in houses; as well as faces, fishes, cats, bears, trains, cars, ships and rockets. “I like to draw match-stick men.” “I draw nice women.”

Drawings are done very quickly and confidently, changes made aren’t covered up, the old idea and the new enhance each other, and there’s no rubbing out!

From the book: WALL DRAWING at Stockaree, Edinburgh 1964.

From the book: WALL DRAWING at Stockaree, Edinburgh 1964.

“Many of the drawings suggest the styles of established masters from severe Holbein or exact Durer, right on to the voluptuous sweep of Matisse, or the magic of Braque’s wandering line. Paul Klee must have been greatly influenced by these street graffiti for you see such a lot of his candelabra trees, his type of stars, and his kind of thinking”

In the early sixties the space age was a popular theme, and children would draw a very big moon, and opposite, a much smaller orb representing THE EARTH. Most children back then imagined the earth to be much smaller than the moon!

As well as drawings, writings on the theme of LOVE would appear “Jean goes with John” and imaginary place-names such as “Stinky Corner” or “Funny Avenue” would appear alongside slogans like “Ban the Bomb” or “I was here in 1963” who the “I” was remains a mystery to this day!

Written & researched by Philip Battle, with special thanks to Julia Bishop (Researcher-Sheffield University)

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The pavement art of Mary Poppins

I’m sure everybody remembers the “Jolly Holiday” sequence, in which Mary, Bert and the children jump into the chalk pavement drawing.

AT THE CIRCUS - Peter Ellenshaw "pavement painting"

AT THE CIRCUS – Peter Ellenshaw “pavement painting”

People have often asked me who did the chalk pavement drawings for MARY POPPINS. Some have assumed that the director just ordered a bunch of low level animators to come along on set and start chalking away; the truth is far more interesting.

MARY POPPINS original pavement art studio photo

MARY POPPINS original pavement art studio photo

Bert’s pavement art scene was shot entirely on a man-made set at Warner Brothers Studio, Burbank, California; and contrary to popular belief, the pavement drawings where not done in chalk at all, but painted directly onto the set floor by Disney matte-artist Peter Ellenshaw. Under the direction of set decorator, Hal Gausman.

DICK VAN DYKE as Bert the pavement artist

DICK VAN DYKE as Bert the pavement artist

Walt Disney used to tell a story of how he met the British artist; “You know how I met Peter? I was walking around Trafalgar Square and there was this guy doing some drawings on the pavement. He was painting a loaf of bread on the sidewalk. He’d written ‘Easy to draw, hard to earn.’ And I thought the drawing was pretty good so I said, ‘They’re pretty good. How would you like to come to America and work for me?’ and he said, ‘Yes, I would, guv’nor!’ and that was Peter!”

Of course it was a complete myth; Walt loved to tell stories and have fun with the media, and the press would print it as if it were the absolutely truth.

Bert the Screever - MARY POPPINS Storyboard 1963.

Bert the Screever – MARY POPPINS Storyboard 1963.

The pavement art as it appeared in the film was well researched, featuring subjects and styles that would quite possibly have appeared on London streets around 1912; even the use of a single flagstone for each drawing, with a written description and decorative border.

Peter Ellenshaw was born in Essex, England on the 24th of May, 1913

After serving with the RAF during WWII, late in 1947, Peter’s art caught the attention of the Walt Disney Studios.

Thus began a professional collaboration and friendship with Walt Disney that would span over 30 years and 34 films.

Peter Ellenshaw - Disney Matt Painter artist.

Peter Ellenshaw – Disney Matte-Painter artist.

Ellenshaw was one of the last great practioners of the now-lost art of matte painting – a special effects technique which involved making highly realistic paintings on plates of glass that, when placed in front of the camera while filming a scene in a movie, extended the physical settings in which the actors were filming to create elaborate interiors or dramatic and fantastic landscapes.

Ellenshaw’s matte paintings saved Walt the cost of expensive location trips and elaborate settings. When Mary Poppins flew over the rooftops of London — that was the magic of Peter Ellenshaw.

Peter Ellenshaw's hand as it appeared in Mary Poppins.

Peter Ellenshaw’s hand as it appeared in Mary Poppins.

Continuity mistake: Bert, when adding the road to the fair on his pavement art does so with his right hand (this is Peter Ellenshaw’s left-hand, and not Dick Van Dyke’s right-hand). In the next shot when withdrawing his hand, the chalk is in his left hand.

Continuity mistake: When the kids meet Bert as a pavement artist, he draws a road with a single-arched bridge on his drawing. When they jump into the drawing, the bridge is double arched.

Continuity mistake: When Bert is showing Jane and Michael his chalk sketches and doing his tightrope demonstration, you can see the pigeons in the corner on the far side of the bench. In the next shot when Jane points out the English countryside, the pigeons are right behind Bert again and walking away.

Peter Ellenshaw was one of the artists responsible for the special effects, including the jumping into the chalk drawing scene. Along with  Eustace Lycett and Hamilton Luske, he won an Oscar in 1965, for BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS on Mary Poppins.

Researched by Philip Battle

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Presented at Court (1935)


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I’ve written about REM (Thomas Reynolds) before, but this is the court case that actually sealed his fate as a pavement artist; although he did carry on working outside St-Martins-in-the-Field until at least 1940, his life was never the same again.

“Rem’s” Masterpieces May No Longer Be Hung on Famous Church Railings

What was probably the beginning of the end of a romantic story of an artist’s fight for recognition in the streets of London was heard in Bow-street Police Court yesterday.

PEOPLE who frequent the West End will recall a Bohemian figure sitting before his easel outside St. Martin-in-the-Fields, with a row of his canvases—including portraits of his own grave, spade bearded face—hanging from the churchyard railings, and turning that little corner of the city into an unofficial art gallery.

REM: Thomas Reynolds, outside St-Martins-in-the-Field 1935

REM: Thomas Reynolds, outside St-Martins-in-the-Field 1940

“Studied in the Finest Schools”

He is no ordinary pavement artist—though he will not refuse the smallest copper tribute. His skillful brush, which has earned hundreds in more prosperous times produces serious portraits, not still-life studies of salmon.

“I am well known to the general public as Rem,” he told Mr. Fry, the magistrate. “I have studied in the finest schools in Europe.” But his open-air exhibition may be seen no more. After ten years as one of the minor curiosities of London. Rem has been “moved on” by the police. .

An officer with no sympathy for art explained that the crowds who collected round him caused an obstruction. He also hinted that there had been complaints from the ecclesiastical authorities about the pictures on the railings.

Rem, a dignified figure in the dock, denied both charges.

“The Rev. Dick Sheppard has no objection to my working there,” he declared. “The pavement is 47ft. wide—if a regiment of soldiers passed there would still be plenty of room for people to look at my work. But they were not interested in art on that night, and I fail to see where the obstruction comes in.”

“You haven’t any right to use the pavement as your studio,” pointed out Mr. Fry.

REM: Thomas Reynolds, outside St-Martins-in-the-Field 1940 (Original Press Photo)

REM: Thomas Reynolds, outside St-Martins-in-the-Field 1940 (Original Press Photo)

Then Gaoler Stillwell, who had ushered Rem into the dock, spoke up unexpectedly as a champion of art. “He has been there ever since I have been in the West End,” he told the magistrate. “He ‘ is a wonderful artist, sir!”

Mr. Fry was not to be drawn into a critical discussion. “You mustn’t do this,” he repeated. “If every artist painted on the foot-way something would have to be done about it!”

Rem nervously fingered his spotted bow tie. “If I stayed in a back room in Chelsea I should never get any commissions,” he pleaded. “I should die of starvation, ”

“Besides,” he added—and a note of regret crept into his voice—”the crowds were not looking at me. Only a few people understand my work—I am a classic portrait painter.”

Once more Mr. Fry declined to be lured into the perilous realm of artistic controversy. His attention remained resolutely fixed on the more mundane theme of obstruction. “Ten shillings.” he murmured regretfully.

The “master” whose enthusiasm and enterprise had landed him in the clutches of the law silently departed.

It remains to be seen whether or not his work will continue to decorate St. Martin-in-the-Fields in gallant rivalry of the National Gallery opposite. . .

Published in The Daily Mirror newspaper: Tuesday 14th May 1935 (page 23)

Written by Beau Street

A champion of pavement-art

REM: Thomas Reynolds, outside The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square 1929 (Original Press Photo)

REM: Thomas Reynolds, outside The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square 1925 (Original Press Photo)

REM started as a chalking pavement artist outside the National Gallery, London. In later life he became a “board-man” and presented portraits on the railings of St-Martins-in-the-Field Church. He was even the subject of a British Pathé Newsreel Film & BBC Radio Broadcast.

He was the only pavement artist to be included in a Touristic Guide of London’s MUST-SEE attractions. When he was “brought to book” by the Bow Street Police Courts, his case made the national newspapers. You can read more about REM on the following link! Ruined by War (1935)

Researched by Philip Battle

Visit my Artists of The Paving Stone page on Facebook!


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