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More tales of Screevers at War
Britain was battered, but not out…..and armed with nothing more than a piece of chalk, a bit of imagination and the courage to ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ The screevers of England encouraged everybody to stop looking toward the skies; but instead, to look down upon the artist and his pavement art!
The King and the Pavement Artist
One morning, about five years ago, when King George VI (then Duke of York) was taking the air on the balcony of his house in Piccadilly he noticed in his usual observant way that on the other side of the road immediately opposite his residence a pavement artist had installed himself. The police were soon on the man’s track—he had chosen a pitch that they could not possibly authorise. The intruder was told to go.
The next day a letter arrived at No. 145 Piccadilly. It was from the pavement artist, begging the Royal resident’s permission to remain. The Duke intervened and the man was reinstated. That was the turning point in the career of Henry Cornell, who had been soldier, riveter, park-keeper, van-driver and many other things before he turned to art.
His pictures of country scenes painted from memory and displayed in Piccadilly began to attract attention. It is said that his Royal “patron” would sometimes view his work from over the way, with the aid of field glasses. Forty of Cornell’s studies are now on show in one of London’s most exclusive art galleries, offered for sale at prices from £8 upwards. He no longer uses the pitch in Piccadilly. (Published in The Cairns Post: Friday 16th Feb. 1940)
Here’s another take on the same story as above……
New Life at Fifty
The Artist Who Believes in Miracles
Artist Henry Havelock Cornell believes in miracles. Five years ago be shuffled along the Embankment, In London, a middle-aged man, down and out, finished. Now he is holding his first one-man show at the Leicester galleries and selling, his paintings at £15 a time.
That is Cornell’s idea of a miracle, states the “People.” It was the King who helped him and inspired him. Had Abraham Lincoln died at 50 he would have died unknown, and at that age Cornell was spending his nights among the homeless in St. Martin’s crypt.
Thin, dour-faced, wearing a cap and muffler, Cornell described to a London reporter, the lucky chance that brought him fame. “As I stood In Piccadilly,” he said, “gazing at the pictures of a pavement artist, I thought to myself, ‘I can do better than that.’ I had 2d in my pocket-2d to satisfy hunger or ambition.”
“Ambition won. I bought chalks and started to draw on the pavement opposite the King’s house-he was then Duke of York-at 145 Piccadilly.”
“I did well until a burly sergeant moved me on…….So it was back to shivering on the Embankment again. So, I wrote to the Duke and he sent his equerry to see that I got my old place back.”
“Often, after that, I saw him at his balcony window, looking at my work through binoculars. ‘ Royal patronage,’ I thought to myself. Fancy poor old Cornell getting royal patronage!”
That was enough to work the change in Cornell’s character. Back in his room he found inspiration. Scenes from his wandering career as riveter, newsboy, soldier, hawker, and boot repairer came back to him. He remembered the gipsies he had camped with, the down-and-outs he had met. And he started to paint these memories—to paint and paint till his dreams came true.
At 50 finished: at 55 a success. There’s a moral in that for all of us.
(Published by AP press Ltd 25th March 1940)
Researched and transcribed by Philip Battle