20 November 2009

Osbert Lancaster and Drayneflete Revealed

Osbert Lancaster was a cartoonist. That is kind of like saying Mrs. Beeton was a cook. Lancaster is best known for his work as a cartoonist, but he was also a student of architecture, a set designer, a bon vivant and wicked wit.

A large exhibition of his work, was organized in 2008 to commemorate the centennial of his birth, resulted in a biography/monograph, Cartoons and Coronets: The Genius of Osbert Lancaster.

He combines his love of architecture, his art and his wit in my favorite of works, Drayneflete Revealed,

a parody of the architectural development of an imaginary English hamlet. The endpapers feature a current map of the village attributed to the students of the Drayneflete School of Arts and Crafts,

no doubt a reflection of his memories of the Slade School. The rather elaborate joke moves from the early bronze age, to present day.

"There was a temple of Castor and Pollux occupying the site of the present Parish Church ... another temple standing on ground now covered by the offices of the Drayneflete and district Electric Light Co., that was probably dedicated to the worship if Venus suburbia, the Suburban Aphrodite, a cult very popular in Roman Britain. In the center of the market square there stood a gigantic statue of an Emperor, of which the head ( now in the Museum) was discovered by a Mr. Brickworthy in 1885, when clearing out an old cesspool in the Vicarage garden."

Gigantic head of an Emperor (Claudius? Caligula? Nero? Trajan? Vespasian?)

Drayneflete suffered considerably during the Medieval era:
"Gone is the exquisite old Custard Cross where the market price of custards (or costards) was regularly fixed by the masters of the Custard Makers' Guild....gone is the beautiful old Moot Hall, wantonly destroyed... to make way for the a heavy and ill-proportioned building in the Renaissance style, gone the fine fourteenth-century hall of the Worshipful Company of Drumstretchers. "

After the bombing in 1944 one shard of the medieval masonry remained standing. In my favorite cartoon we find a before and after illustration of a fifteenth-century wall-painting of St. George. The first panel purports to be the painting at its' discovery and the second, after a careful cleaning by a professor Isolde.

For anyone who has ever been appalled at a poor restoration, this image should leave you laughing.


  1. Lucinda, I've loved Osbert Lancaster ever since I found a weird fabric-backed softcover edition of one of his books back when I was in college, and Drayneflete Revealed used to be on my Need-to-Buy list but somehow, it fell off & I forgot all about it. Thanks for the reminder.

    And special thanks to Little Augury for the pointer over here.

  2. Osbert Lancaster - marvellous. I was given Draynefleet a little while ago and treasure it. It informs and amuses at the same time. He used to have a cartoon in the Daily Telegraph when I was growing up. I wish I hadn't been too young to appreciate it.

  3. I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.


  4. In a way, for an art-lover like myself, decorating our home is quite easy. I just please myself mostly, with my poor husband going along with most of my choices. I am always collecting beautiful things, like handicraft decorative pieces, little sculptures and hangings.
    And I simply hang lovely paintings in all our rooms. Not all are originals of course, as who can afford many of those.
    I order many prints on canvas from wahooart.com who have a vast collection of images from Western art, that you can choose to make economically-priced prints like this Interior in Aubergines, by Henri Matisse, http://en.wahooart.com/A55A04/w.nsf/Opra/BRUE-5ZKCMX, from there.
    I can choose the frames as well and my orders are delivered quickly to my home.


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