Artists are ‘drawing’ on the easing of Covid-19 lockdown regulations

They don’t come often so I saved Boris’s text message - “New rules in force: you must stay at home” - which pinged onto Roamer’s mobile phone at 2½ minutes to six on the evening of March 24.

Friday, 19th June 2020, 6:00 am
Fougasse’s Moderately Welcome Doormat

I summarised the implications of the PM’s edict on this page shortly afterwards, with lines from A. A. Milne’s poem ‘Solitude’:

“I have a house where I go,

Where no one can be…

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Matthew ‘Matt’ Pritchett’s Cartoon ‘More tea, mum?’

Where nobody ever says ‘No’

There is no one but me.”

The lines were spoken by Winnie-the-Pooh’s little chum Christopher Robin, endearingly depicted by artist Ernest Shepard’s drawing in Milne’s poetry book for children called ‘Now We Are Six’, published in 1927.

Winnie-the-Pooh, separated by two metres from Piglet (another of Shepard’s iconic anthropomorphisms) features in a series of online exhibitions of drawings and cartoons hosted by London’s Chris Beetles Gallery.

Cartoon by Bill Stott

Because of Covid-19 the gallery is temporarily closed to visitors but has been running weekly ‘lockdown exhibitions’ with accompanying storylines at www.chrisbeetles.com with Instagram and Twitter feeds “providing a special service that should cheer the nation” says gallery Director Dr Chris Beetles.

The artworks, by a host of well-known artists, radiate optimism and good humour, with a liberal garnish of sentiment and nostalgia “to remind us” says Dr Beetles “that even during times of greatest national challenge, Britain remains strong in spirit.”

The drawings and cartoons, along with their quirky captions, illustrate and illuminate the do’s and don’ts of lockdown, suggesting some activities that conform with the rules of self- isolation.

For instance - solo badminton, aided and abetted by one of William Heath Robinson’s whimsically elaborate machines.

'Hairdresser After Lockdown'! By Henry Mayo Bateman

So far there have been nine instalments of online art shows.

The 10th and most recent exhibition reflects the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis - Lifting Lockdown.

“Now it’s time you had a bit of fun with one very, very special person. Get back to work, if there are any jobs left, and soon go on holiday, if anybody will have you.”

Bill Stott’s cartoon of an anxious pair of holidaymakers in a seedy side-street illustrates the current “struggle to find a welcoming country for Brits abroad.”

And there’s some additional advice from the Beetle’s Gallery.

“When embarking on your continental holiday dress soberly avoiding football shirts if possible and try not to be conspicuous. Life will never be the same again; it’s a new world out there.”

Whether or not we make it successfully to foreign climes, when we’re at home “close family comes first and of course it is safer to meet outdoors. However you must stick to the rules and insist your bubble-participants bring their own cup and saucer.”

Matthew ‘Matt’ Pritchett’s cartoon depicts a mother visiting her daughter for a cuppa in a multi-story block of flats.

Mum is outside, sitting dizzyingly high amongst the flowers in the window box!

“Sorry we don’t have a garden,” says her daughter, adding “More tea, mum?”

The Beetle’s Gallery online exhibition accepts that “there are those of course that just have no sense of social responsibility, will not follow the rules and insist on gathering in groups greater than six.”

The picture illustrating the rule-breakers is The Witches’ Sabbath by Arthur Rackham.

The spooky scene in ink and watercolour was an illustration by Rackhman for Washington Irving’s short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, published in 1928.

Irving was the American author, essayist, biographer, historian and diplomat famous for writing Rip Van Winkle in 1819.

As well as illustrating The Legend of Sleepy Hollow English artist Arthur Rackham was well-known for his drawings of Peter Pan and for the Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm.

“Loosening of lockdown does take a bit of getting used to,” the Beetle’s storyline continues “and you may find that not everybody is very keen to see you again.”

This is illustrated in the exhibition with a cartoon by British cartoonist Cyril Kenneth Bird, known as Fougasse, from Punch magazine in 1960 - a ‘Moderately Welcome’ doormat!

The storyline yearns for the way things used to be.

“Everyone has changed, even doctors look disconcertingly like spacemen. Whatever happened to that reassuring pinstripe suit and carnation in the button hole? Well at least our dentists are back and are prepared to run an emergency service, with not always enough PPE for assistants.”

The illustration of the dentist’s surgery dates back to 1925, vividly depicting a patient being treated by The Farmer Dentist, by Channel Islands artist Edmund Blampied.

A queue at the hairdresser after lockdown has been lifted is illustrated in a pen and ink drawing by Henry Mayo Bateman dated 1911.

“Whatever you do, follow the science,” is the exhibition’s final advice, on an illustration of a man at a very old-fashioned microscope, engraved by William Washington in 1931.

And there’s a message to the gallery’s online visitors “we hope that you stay safe and well, and we look forward to welcoming you back into the gallery soon.”

Meanwhile the Chris Beetles team is working remotely and can be contacted via email ([email protected]), telephone (0207 839 7551) and their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds. You can visit the current series of online exhibitions at www.chrisbeetles.com

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