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A delightful drawing by WALTER GEIKIE RSA 1795-1837
Written & researched by Philip Battle.
Walter Geikie is best known for his drawing and print-making. Born in Edinburgh, he was rendered deaf and dumb as a two-year old. He studied at the Trustees’ Academy where he was taught by Andrew Wilson. Geikie’s scenes of Scottish life can be humorous or satirical; equally his sympathy for the working class is evident in his work.
This Illustration shows two men sitting outside a house, one resting his chin on his crossed arms, watching a small boy drawing a mounted soldier on the ground with a chalk.
During the 18th and 19th century, child pavement artists, where a common sight in all the major cities of the British Isles.
Talented Screevers; children no more than street urchins, and as young as 5 years of age, would frequent the pavements around the docks and alehouses of cities like Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and London; with the aim of ‘relieving the street passengers’ of a penny or two. Sailors and tourists of the day, people with disposable income would often oblige. Life was hard, and if caught by the Peelers (Police) they were often beaten up, thrown into prison and then off to the horrors of the Workhouse.
The ‘Little Drawers’ where often sent out by their parents to offset the grinding poverty. Sometimes, returning home with bulging pockets full of pennies, and, on many occasions, the families only source of wealth & income. They would go out in two’s and three’s so as to act as ‘lookout’ for the Peelers.
Some child pavement artists, like Liverpool’s James Carling managed to eke out a reasonable living from the trade, and went on to be successful artists; others just fell by the wayside.
This drawing was originally published in a book of illustrations “Etchings Illustrative of Scottish Character and Scenery” in 1841. 4 years after Geikie’s death in 1837. So it’s safe to say that the etching was made sometime during the 1820’s/ 1830’s although I have no precise date as yet.
Originals prints are currently held by The British Museum.
With reference material from the British Museum.
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