Archive for June, 2015

The Champion Artists

June 30, 2015

Virtually every sketch, drawing, or painting on the Craighead House kitchen walls comes with a story. My challenge is to unearth those stories and the background behind those pictures. This morning’s email from Jim Champion was a major step toward revealing why two (three if you count both cats) black animals were painted by people who may have been from India or England. In the Craighead twins’ book on their trip to Indian, they wrote about spending two weeks in February 1941 with a forester and photographer named Champion. They never gave his first name, always addressing him as Mr. Champion in the book. Among other things, they hunted a man-eating tiger and rode on elephants with him.

So, when Bill Craighead told me Jim Champion had painted the large black cats chasing rats above the fireplace and I noticed Heather Champion’s signature by the large black horse high on the wall across from the cellar door dated June 6, 1941, I guessed they were connected with Mr. Champion in some way. When I found a site title http://www.Jim-Champion.com, I emailed, hoping to find that this was the same Jim Champion or a descendant of his. It turns out that Jim and Heather are this Jim (James) Champion’s cousins and he is the grandson of F. W. “Freddie” Champion, who the twins visited in India in 1941.

Jim and Heather Champion were the children of Sir Harry Champion, then Professor of Forestry at Oxford and previously a forester in India, who evacuated them to America during WWII. After staying with the Craigheads in their cramped house, Heather was looked after by the Marshall family (cousins of the Marshall Plan Marshalls) in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. Heather and Jim did get to spend some time at Craighead Station on a couple of occasions, once for two weeks with Jean and the twins.

Heather Champion's Horse

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Artwork on Craighead House Kitchen Walls

June 20, 2015

This week I started a task that I’ve put off for a good while: cataloging the artwork drawn or painted directly on the plaster walls of the Craighead House kitchen. The task is so daunting I feared how difficult it would be because the walls are covered from chair rail to ceiling with pieces, large and small, distinct and overlapping, in a variety of media ranging from pencil to crayon to multiple types of paint. A drawing of a tree in the back yard and the railroad bridge even extends onto the ceiling. I devised a plan in which I would identify the wall (north south, east, or west), horizontal distance from its left corner, vertical distance from the ceiling down. I also logged a description of the art, the artist’s name, the date it was created, and the medium in which it was created. I’ll need help from an artist on the last one as I can only identify pencil with any accuracy.

On Thursday, with a test sheet in hand to test the method, I gave it a try, starting with the west wall. After an hour, I’d filled the first sheet and hadn’t recorded all the art left of the window and below eye level. I modified the form to include several more rows and gave it the old college try again on Friday. After two hours or so, with back aching, I finished the west wall. After filling the second sheet, I turned it over and filled its backside. Still not finished, I took out the first sheet and filled about a third of its whitespace. With back aching, I’d finished the west, the longest, wall (the east wall appears to have fewer drawings on it because it has both a door and a window cut out of it). Blow up the photo to see if you can identify pieces done by Jean Craighead George, her brothers, and father.

Typing the data into the computer will be the easy part; identifying the unsigned pieces will be a major challenge. So, I’ll be asking people to help by providing any information they may have about pieces they, their friends, or relatives may have drawn. Today, I attack the south wall on which Eugene Craighead started the project by painting rats running into the open chimney hole.

Contains early works by Jean Craighead George

West Wall of Craighead House Kitchen