Military Convalescent Art & My 19th Century Finds

Favourite Finds


Ahoy there folks!  Welcome to this week's instalment of 'Blog Post Monday'.

This week I'm dedicating my post to one of my favourite recent finds.  As you may well know by now, I have a particular fascination with folk art and creations made throughout history by untrained artists.  Created only from materials available to them, each piece offers an insight into the feelings and emotions of the creator at the time, and tells a very personal story.  But it's not just about the exceptional artistic talent behind these pieces, it's about the significant social and historical importance of them too.

So, as always, get that kettle on and bring with it your very best bedside manner, as we take a look at the fascinating world of military 'Convalescent Art'...


Image:  my 19th century convalescent art pieces 


During my time as an antiques dealer and collector, I’ve seen, handled and owned many pieces of fascinating folk art or 'untrained art'.  Whether that’s pieces made by prisoners of war during conflicts, seamen during lengthy voyages around the world or those directly affected by a tragedy, it strikes me that, when times get tough, no matter who we are, we turn to art to express our feelings and emotions.


Image:  my 19th century convalescent art pieces 


Through research of my many finds, I have stumbled across some remarkable stories.  Stories that are the backbone of some entire communities, with some originating from local folklores or traditions.  These pieces are essentially stories through the eyes of the creator, and 'Convalescent Art' is a wonderful example of this.


Image:  my 19th century convalescent art pieces  


'Convalescent Art' was introduced during the 1850's and was used more prominently during World War 1 as a form of occupational therapy for soldiers recovering from injury or suffering with mental health conditions.  

British military patients were encouraged to get creative to help keep their minds active and to distract them from their recovery.  They developed their artistry through their regimental identity, particularly with the older tradition of regimental handicrafts during the Crimean War.  Some patients chose patriotic themes, such as the Union Jack or their regimental insignia.


Image:  Thomas William Wood’s portrait of Private Thomas Walker.


Thomas Wood’s ‘Portrait of Private Walker’ (pictured above) producing patchwork while convalescing in a military hospital after being injured during the Crimean war, certainly shows that handicrafts were supported as a form of occupational therapy at this time.  The art form chosen by convalescing soldiers varied, with embroidering, painting and carving proving the most popular subjects, and there were some impressive creations that came out of this.

Quilting proved one of the most popular handicrafts, with creations being put together from old uniforms, blankets and discarded fabrics.  These are often referred to as 'Crimean Quilts'.  In fact, Private Thomas Walker (pictured in Thomas William Wood’s painting), was terribly wounded at the battle of Inkerman and during his recovery, he began to stitch quilts of such arresting quality that Queen Victoria bought one.


Image:  my 19th century convalescent art pieces 


My pair of naively carved wooden folk art soldiers, dating from the 19th century (mounted on modern stands), certainly fit the mould.  This artist went with a patriotic theme in the form of saluting soldiers in full regimental uniform, with those particular uniforms suggesting that they were perhaps also made during the Crimean War.  An interesting element of 'Convalescent Art', particularly during the 19th century, is that the majority of it was left unsigned, with the only form of personalisation coming via the chosen subject or the scraps of material used.


Image:  my 19th century convalescent art pieces 


Well, that's it for this week folks!  I hope you've enjoyed this little insight into the fascinating world of convalescent art.   You'll be pleased to hear that this pair of 19th century carved soldiers are available to buy HERE



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So, until next week, stay safe, keep buying those antiques and keep spreading that Source Vintage love!




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