I have a new (old) companion in the gallery in the shape of an enormous double sided easel. I had been looking to buy an upright one with a crank arm to easily raise it up and down for a while, as the one I had previously borrowed had returned to its owner. This one came to me in a strange set of circumstances – I tried very hard not to buy it from a kind friend, as it looked far too special for me to actually own, but thankfully my protestations fell on deaf ears.
Wheeling it up through town tied to an old sack truck got plenty of attention with a few comments along the lines of how it looked like the stocks used in the dark ages, and what was I planning to do with it!
It seemed as though it would be too tall to set up in the gallery, and would be more at home in somewhere with a much higher ceiling but I have been innovative and screwed some kitchen drawer fronts together to sort that out, and can use one side for standing and one side for sitting. It is good to vary how I work when I do such long hours to avoid back ache.
Never buy an old easel, says my wise teacher, and his words echoed in my mind as I oiled up the impressive Victorian steel triple winding mechanism, which thankfully works like a dream. Although I had been assured that the large family of woodworm had been asked to vacate, I wasn’t taking any chances and retreated the whole thing, turning it upside down and rendering my gallery useless for quite some time while the fumes subsided. I returned a few days later to piles of dust underneath, where the wood had been totally annihilated by the little critters, it seems that there is less easel left than I had thought, but I think that adds to the character. Anyhow, once I have glued a split piece, I am guessing that it will last me out, despite only having 3 and a half wheels….
Fitting the handle and winding the whole beast up and down to precisely the right height to work at is such a luxury and will save me a lot of time previously spent adjusting and cursing the awkwardness of my other one whilst almost dropping canvases. No more reaching down at that uncomfortable angle to paint ‘just for a few minutes’ which inevitably turns into a lengthy and torturous ordeal for my back as I zone out, caught up in creativity.
It originates from an art supplier called C Roberton who set up a shop in 1810 near the Royal Academy of Arts in London, where my ancestor John Linnell trained along with Turner. Linnell had an account with the supplier from 1849 – 1887, who knows, maybe he saw it in there!