Folk art and Clarke Hutton, 1945

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Illustrations by Clarke Hutton from Popular English Art, published in 1945 by Penguin, as a ‘King Penguin’ format (which looks and feels like an early Ladybird book).

The colours are really vibrant and un-natural – it may be to do with the printing processes rather than intentional, I’m not sure. Nevertheless, that seems perfect for these images of a more rough-hewn past. I’ve a feeling that we’re so used to seeing tastefully-hued recreations of Victorian life in film and TV that it gets forgotten that the colours they used were in reality not that different from the 1960s/1970s favourites: strong voices, not polite chatter.

If there’s something these pictures evoke for me, it’s the children’s TV series Bagpuss. There was an odd, warmly melancholic air about that programme, like sun on a rainy afternoon. And of course the shop was full of washed-up bric-a-brac…

The Punch and Judy man gets me thinking of Cole Hawlins from John Masefield’s The Box of Delights.

All these images seem to swim around in the headspace of children’s literature from 30 or 40 years ago: they’re all about a particular type of adventure, unstuffiness and freedom…