The colour and verve of painted narrow boats – swags of roses, romantic castles, and bold geometric design – represent an extraordinary nineteenth-century flowering of popular art. Passed down through generations of painters, it has an enduring beauty and drama which remains fascinating and captivating two centuries on.
The eternal popularity of roses and castles is a testament to the chord they strike in the heart of post-industrial man. This achievement lifts them beyond the merely decorative to an art form worthy of its place in history. The origins of the art of roses and castles lie firmly in the emerging industrial age. Yet, its strength and continuity are due to the artisan system of master and apprentice, the older painter passing down his years of skill and experience to the younger man. From the Nursers of Braunston to the Atkins of Polesworth, the story is often one of the generations of a family employed in the trade, each artist developing his own distinct and distinctive versions of the basic ‘pattern’.
Fascinating period photographs show these men at work, both on the boats and on land, and remaining examples of their skill have been captured in beautiful colour photography. Tony Lewery’s vivid account of the painters’ lives and fortunes and a colourful explanation of the various designs and motifs that dominate the paintwork complete this comprehensive and beautiful book.