Screevers at War
Some stories from the frontline kerbstones of wartime Blighty!
Wartime screever Arthur Webb at work on the Victorian Embankment near Westminster Bridge: Photo by Carl Mydans Time & Life Pictures (1939)
With anti-aircraft guns belching fire and the occasional boom of a distant bomb, a London pavement artist was quietly painting the scene in front of him. On the left there was an historic building, and the road in front of him was deserted. On the pavement beside him a box of paints and chalks lay open, and he was seizing this opportunity to get an impression of London under air-raid conditions.
An air warden stopped and spoke a few words to him. But he shook his head with a smile, and went on working steadily at the canvas in front of him. (Published in the Nottingham Evening Post- Tuesday 27th August 1940)
Admiral Sir Rodger Keyes’s ideas about ex-King Leopold’s act of royal Quisling are not shared by the man in the street; at least certainly not by the London pavement artist, who usually has a fairly sensitive finger on the popular pulse.
At Hyde Park Corner there was a display of chalk portraits last evening, and one of them was a lifelike presentation of Leopold III. But the portraitist had added, below this work of art, a heavily chalked addendum in writing. It read: “He has quit!” (Published in the Nottingham Evening Post- Saturday 1st June 1940)
Mr Albert Perry, the artist of Franciscan Road, Tooting Common, SW writes:–Pavement artists have for years helped the man-in-the-street to appreciate good art. Why not an exhibition of their works at the Royal Academy? An idea paved with good intentions, but no walk over. (LIVE LETTERS: Published in the Daily Mirror, Friday 17th October 1941.)
A Chalky Problem in Law!
If a pavement artist leaves his hat beside his pictures for the night and passers-by drop pennies into it, and some nasty little boys sneak the pennies, is that larceny? A correspondent to the Police Review suggests not. The coins were on the public footway. They had not passed into the absent artist’s possession. The donors could not be traced. Is it “larceny from person or persons unknown”? Tartly the review replies that the hat is the same as a money box, therefore the money had passed into the artist’s possession and the property could be laid in him. (Published in the Daily Express, Thursday 13th Jan. 1944)
Prison for Begging
Torquay ‘Pavement Artist’ Sentenced
At Torquay yesterday Thomas Reid, described as a pavement artist, of 9, Stentifords-hill, Torquay, was summoned for begging. PC Cornall said he saw defendant sitting on the pavement exhibiting pictures and holding out his hat to passers-by.
Supt. T. Milford mentioned seven previous convictions of a similar nature, and added that defendant would sit on the pavement in such a position as to appear a cripple. He did not seem to want to get his living any other way. Before informing defendant that he would be sent to prison for 14 days, the Chairman, Mr J F Bulleid said it was a scandal that when the country’s needs were so great there was a man doing nothing to help. (Published in the Western Morning News (Torquay) Tuesday 4th May 1943)
Just a Habit!
Wartime habits die hard in Britons, who have waited for hours in queues for cigarettes, seats in the theatres, and even for buses. QUEUEING has become so much a part of our wartime instinct that one observer reported yesterday that holiday crowds on Hampstead Heath London, waited patiently in line to see the work of a pavement artist. (Published in the Daily Express: 11th April 1944)
Wartime screever DAVID BURTON at Hampstead Heath, London (1945)
Coppers always clinked steadily in the greasy cap of Jimmy Morrison, 83-year-old Newcastle pavement artist. Wet or fine, Jimmy was always standing in the gutter close to Newcastle’s central station. One day he wasn’t there. He was dying in his one-room home, rented at five shillings a week in a poor district. Before he died he handed a brown-paper package to a neighbour, asked her to take care of it. When the police opened the parcel they found Jimmy had a total of £2,000 in two bank accounts, plus £282 in notes, silver, and coppers. From Belfast this week came two elderly woman to claim this unexpected new-year windfall. They were Jimmy’s sisters, and although he had not left a will be left their addresses with the neighbour just before his death. (Published in THE MAIL: Saturday 13th Jan. 1945)
How England Carries on Her Radio War
Radio Broadcasts to France!
Every Friday night is “V” night, when Colonel Britton, mystery man of the ether goes to the microphone with words of courage, hope and inspiration. He tells workers to go slow, incites them to sabotage, inspires wall and pavement chalking campaigns, and unmasks quislings. (Published in THE MAIL: Saturday 4th July 1942)
Never a Crossword!
Daily Express Crossword: Published Wed. 25th Feb. 1942 (click to enlarge)
Daily Express crossword from 1942; Urrrmmm…….20 across anybody?
NO BOMB BONUS?
Relating to work and pay conditions of the Bomb Disposal Squads: As the pavement artists say; “Sympathy without relief, is like mustard without beef.” (Daily Express: Mon. 18th Nov. 1940)
David James Gullan (65), pavement artist, described by the city’s acting chief constable as a “Humbug,” was at the court on Tuesday sent to prison for a month for placing himself in a position to beg and gather alms in Sidwell-street on July 7th, and to a further two months’ imprisonment for having at the same time unlawfully represented himself to be a person entitled to use or wear the military decoration of the D.C.M. (published in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette: Friday 18th July 1941)
GENERAL MONTGOMERY seems to have supplanted Mr Churchill in the affections at least of the London pavement artist. They find his features easier to reproduce than the features of the Prime Minister. I saw one of these artists busy at work on a really excellent portrait of the hero of the 8th Army. Quite obviously, however, it was a “property” piece, for it was merely the back-ground he altered. He carefully refrained from touching up the well-remembered face, with its inevitable beret.
Some of these pavement artists are very clever at making quick sketches of passers-by, and since most of their patrons are Service men, “Monty” no doubt proves a lure. Nevertheless, men seem to find these al fresco sittings some-what of an ordeal. Under the sympathetic smiles of the small crowd that invariably collects, their faces take on a glassy stare that must worry these Rembrandts’ of the street. (Published in the Nottingham Evening Post: Thursday 29th July 1943)
Sharks & Angels
The Royal Academician noticed a drawing of a fish by a pavement artist, and asked what sort of a fish it was supposed to be. “A shark, sir!” replied the artist. “It is quite clear that you have never seen a shark,” said the R.A. with a contemptuous laugh. “That’s right, sir,” said the artist. “But after all, some of those Academy chaps have painted angels, you know?” (Published in The Weekly Scotsman: Tuesday 20th July 1943)
A Portrait of a Boiled Lobster!
Albert Perry; Pavement artist and art master at Norwood technical institute claims the record of having had more work rejected by the Royal Academy than any other artist.
Pavement Art "PRIVATE VIEW" by Albert Perry (April 1st 1940)
Today he staged a “private” exhibition in an unusually public way. Eight sandwichmen, each carrying two oils, paraded the streets from West End to Bloomsbury. A girl wearing corduroy trousers handed out price-lists to pedestrians. A typical price was £250 for “Portrait of a boiled lobster.” But footpath viewers were not slow to notice that the price-lists were dated April 1st. (Published by AP Ltd: 2nd April 1940)
Researched and transcribed by Philip Battle