More Historic Caravans in Art

Copyright The Munnings Collection at The Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum / Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Copyright The Munnings Collection at The Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum.

Here are a couple final Alfred Munnings images of Romani caravans in an English countryside.  As a keen observer, he definitely caught the important details of each type of caravan and the essentials of camp life.  The watercolor above is somewhat unusual for Munnings as it shows no animals, people, or campfire.

alfred-munnings-gypsy-encampment

Alfred Munnings.

Above is a rarely shown rounded square-top among other carts and caravans with livestock milling about.  The variety detailed in these historic images should be helpful for those desiring to design and build a similar living accommodation.  The previous post gave a glimpse of Laura Knight’s work on the subject and her subjects are remarkably detailed and informative.

Gypsy Camp, ca 1938, Dame Laura Knight.

Gypsy Camp, ca 1938, Dame Laura Knight.

This is one of my favorite scenes of a camp in the countryside; two beautiful ledge wagons and a marquis tent in a field.  I could picture this in a high parkland of the Rocky Mountains.  Many people don’t know that the outlier tent, awnings, and tarps are almost ubiquitous with the old caravans.  This allows for a very flexible and expandable living arrangement or a sheltered kitchen area.

Young Gypsies 1937, Dame Laura Knight.

Young Gypsies 1937, Dame Laura Knight.

If you look closely at the sketch above, you can see that this is the same encampment from another angle, focusing on the kids at play.  It looks like a fine way to grow up.

gypsywagonandtent

Gypsy Wagon and Tent, Dame Laura Knight, 1962.

And finally, another favorite of mine.  I suspect it’s the same little yellow wagon next to the sketchiest bender tent ever.  Probably a makeshift shelter for work or cooking.  A wagon wheel in the foreground seems to await repair while the kids look on.  Note the size of these caravans relative to today’s “needs” and remember that whole families lived and were raised this way.

If you missed the previous post about historic caravans in art go HERE or check out a whole page of images I have curated HERE.

Historic Romani Caravan Paintings

These images might whet the appetite for summer days, picnics, an caravanning off into the great unknown; or it might just be a bunch of pretty pictures if the former isn’t your cup of tea.  Anyway, these are generally labelled and classed as Gypsy images although we know that this is often seen as an offensive word to many Romani (Roma, Romany, etc.), I don’t think it was intended this way in many cases.  For that matter, when not applied to an actual people, the word gets thrown around in art, aesthetic style, dance, music, and many other ways.  I have only known a few “Gypsies” in my lifetime and that was the term used; maybe out of simplicity, maybe just as resignation to the common language.  But enough of this digression, enjoy the paintings.  There will be more to come.

Dame Laura Knight, Gypsy Caravans, 1935. LONDON.- Trinity House.

Dame Laura Knight, Gypsy Caravans, 1935. LONDON.- Trinity House.

“Knight … bucked trends through depicting liminal sites, such as circuses and gypsy settlements, from the very beginning of her career. An example of this is her delightful work Gypsy Caravans (1935).”

The caravans depicted above are the Rolls-Royce’s of their day; highly ornamented Reading Wagons with mollycrofts, awnings, windows, and fine paint work.  They would catch they eye of any artist.  I am particularly fond of the domestic scene around the hearth; laundry being done and hung out to dry in the background.

The paintings below are by Sir Alfred Munnings (1878-1959), a British artist who made many beautiful watercolor paintings of horses, encampments, and caravans.  What better, more colorful, and dynamic subject matter?  Alfred Munnings’s biography states that he clearly considered himself accepted among the gypsies when he was able to persuade several of the older women to bring out the brilliant shawls, boldly coloured aprons, and flamboyant ostrich feathered hats that were special occasion wear for the women.”

ALFRED-MUNNINGS

Sir Alfred Munnings.

The ubiquitous fire hook and kettle rest as the true center of this scene.  Everyone is done up in the Sunday best at Epsom Downs.  We see all kinds of accommodations from a bender tent to various quality of living wagon.  And no camp is complete without a lurcher (dog) and the milk goat.

Munnings became president of the Royal Academy and was made a Knight of the Victorian Orderwhile Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970) served on a panel of European judges for an international exhibition at the Carnegie Institute and was appointed as an official artist for the Nuremberg War trials for her technical abilities.  In other words, good documentary artists.

ALFRED-MUNNINGS3

Sir Alfred Munnings.

Travellers and their goat gather ’round the morning tea.  I envision Mick’s garden will look like this once Jim and I get our ‘vans parked for the summer.

alfred-munnings-gypsy-life-the-hop-pickers

Gypsy Life, the hops pickers, Sir Alfred Munnings..

ALFRED-MUNNINGS4

One of my favorites.  So much going on here and a great color scheme.

More images added HERE.

Another Look

Here’s another look at an image I posted quite a while ago.  I really like this photo.  These Scottish Travellers give a glimpse of some less-than-stereotypical living waggons (sic).  Very few wanderers could afford the classic Dunton Reading wagon but made do with more affordable accommodations; possibly even owner-built.

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. Click image for link.

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. Click HERE for the source.

All three of the caravans pictured have mollycrofts for light and air but are of a pretty simple variety.  I am struck by the one on the right mostly by how plain it is (plank siding without exposed ribs) and it’s very small proportions.  I suspect there were many more of this variety than the elite, custom-built wagons on the roads in Britain in the heyday.

Home is Where the Hearth Is

…and the Vardo Will be Close by.

20150329_073652

Somebody hates to be left out.

Some important facts about caravan living before the ultra-modern RVs came along that may help people understand some of the choices I have made about my own wagon:

atHome

At the most basic level, life revolves around food and shelter.

  • The caravan is the hub around which camp is built, but most “living” actually takes place outside in the wide world.  Sometimes this means tents or other temporary structures provide added protection from the elements.  Prior to the second world war, caravan Travellers in Europe often slept outdoors, under the caravan when necessary while the kids were corralled inside.  This makes a lot a sense as adults stay up later, and kids can wander off.
  • Cooking is done outdoors, over a fire.  The stove, when there is one, is for heat and drying.  The hearth is the focus of family life, just as it has been for a million years.  That is where people congregate, music and stories happen there, and it is provides comfort and cheer.

Hearth and home has a real meaning.

  • There is no water closet or toilet inside the caravan.  That is considered by connoisseurs to be repugnant in such a small space.  Needing to defecate in such a small space is a modern, and to some, a filthy idea.  However, this is one of the most common criticisms I hear about mine or other traditional wagons; seemingly from folks with little travel or camping experience.
J. Lequesca's sheep graze in Jordan Valley, Oregon.

J. Lequesca’s sheep graze in Jordan Valley, Oregon.

  • A consistent anthropological observation about nomads is the strict rules of hygiene and cleanliness.  Working and wandering outdoors can be a dirty business so strict rules are adhered to.  Some of these reach the level of taboos and can be traced back over at least a thousand years.  Living on the road can make one appreciate this need.Family

    Family

    A happy family from the road.

  • The fancy wagons of 19th century Britain are the exception, not the rule.  Functional but sometimes homely carts and wagons have likely served as the home base for nomads of various types since 500 B.C. or before.  They came to their peak of perfection in Britain in the 19th century before morphing into the RVs we see today.
TravellerinSWengland

A Traveller in southwest England. This simple accommodation is much cheaper and more readily built from cheap or found materials than the fancy production models.

Then as today, a conscientious traveller uses a fire pan to prevent scorching the earth by the roadside.  Mine is an old plow disk.

And finally, above are a few examples of outside extensions added to late 19th century caravans across Britain exhibiting the functionality of canvas to extend the living space in less-than-perfect weather.

Caravanroadside

You never quite know where the day might end.

 

Bender Tent

A Traveller’s (sic) Tuesday.  Just a glimpse into life in a bender tent.  Despite the glamorous view of life on the road depicted by the romantic English Gypsy Caravans, this is how most Roma lived in 19th Century Britain.

Ralph_Headley_CharltonGypsies, Camped on the Beach, near South Shields, Ralph Hedley Charlton, painted 1876.

Traveler’s Life

Getting back to our theme of traveler’s, caravans, and other wanderers of the world… a few images from Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret a French Naturalist Painter of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

"Dans la forêt-Musée des beaux-arts de Nancy."

“Dans la forêt-Musée des beaux-arts de Nancy.”

I believe I would enjoy siting around this campfire.

chevaux-a-l-abreuvoir---pascal-dagnan-bouveret

“Chevaux à l’abreuvoir.”

Once a common scene, now virtually lost in an era of loud, fume-belching machinery.

"Gypsy Scene."

“Gypsy Scene.”

A peaceful morning cooking breakfast in the morning dew.  The caravan is obscured by the smoke of the campfire.

Images from “Gipsy Life” by George Coalville

From a book published in 1880 about the Roma and some thoughts on how to “improve” their condition in Britain.  He traces their history in Britain from their first recorded arrival in Scotland in 1514 and is an interesting and somewhat sympathetic read.  Here are some images and a couple snatches of the writing.

bendertentSeveral types and qualities of bender tents are illustrated and show a realistic view of camp life.

smallwaggonmakeshift

“For the dance no music can be better than that of a Gipsy band; there is life and animation in it which carries you away.  If you have danced to it yourself, especially in a czardas, then to hear the stirring tones without involuntarily springing up is, I assert, an absolute impossibility.”  Poor, deluded mortals, I am afraid they will find—

“Nothing but leaves!
Sad memory weaves
No veil to hide the past;
And as we trace our weary way,
Counting each lost and misspent day,
Sadly we find at last,
Nothing but leaves!”

familytentI was for the first ten minutes fully occupied in trying to keep a respectable distance from a number of dogs of all sizes and breeds, which had the usual appetite for fresh meat and tweed trowsering, and, at the same time, endeavouring in vain to find solid ground upon which to stand, for the place at the entrance and all round the tents was one regular mass of deep “slush.”  It soon became known that my p. 228pockets were plentifully supplied with half-ounces of tobacco and sweets.  These I soon disposed off, especially the latter, for there seemed no end to the little bare-footed children that could walk, and those that couldn’t were brought in turn by their sisters or brothers.  I was invited to visit all the tents, but I could gain but little information beyond an account of the severe winter, bad state of trade, your visit in one of the black, dense fogs, &c.

vardowccampfireandpipefancyvardoTo be quite honest, I’m mostly into this one for the images but for those interested, the book can be found online HERE.

Romany Rai

Romano Rai (Romany Rye) (Traditional, English)

I’m a Romano Rai, just an old didikai,
I build all my temples beneath the blue sky,
I live in a tent and I don’t pay no rent,
and that’s why they call me the Romano Rai.

Didi-a-didi-a-didi-di-kai, chavves,
Tika-dika-tika-a-lai

Your Daddus tryin’ to sell a mush a kushto grai.
I’m a Romano rai, just an old didikai,
I live in a mansion beneath the blue sky,
I was born in a ditch, so I won’t ever grow rich,
But that’s why they call me the Romano Rai.

Tikka, tikka, didikai, tikka, tikka, didikai
That’s why they call him the Romano Rai

Tikka-tikka-didikai, tikka tikka, didikai,
That’s why they call him the Romani Rai.

I’m a Romano Rai, a true didikai,
My temple’s a mansion beneath the blue sky,
I’m a Romano Rai, a true didikai,
just campin’ around, on any ol’ ground,

But that’s why they call him the Romano Rai.

 

*Didikai is a term than Romanichal (British) call mixed-blood Romani.

A Real Land Yacht

wowWagon

This is part of a series of images, mostly Romany, Irish and Scottish Travellers collected from around the internet.  Many of these historic images found on the web are without citation.  When a clear link to a source is found, I try to include it.  If a source is known, please pass it on and I will gladly include it or remove it if necessary.