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In the Frame for February 2011: The Little Traveller II by an anonymous artist

A fortnight or so ago we bid farewell to our part-time registrar, who completed her postgraduate degree in museum studies last year and is now bound for pastures green. We wish her all the best for the future. One of the last tasks we gave her was to choose a painting for this month's In the Frame. She chose an anonymous work in a sketchbook which we have called The Little Traveller II, and this is what she wrote about it:

"This month I have chosen to highlight a work that is quite mysterious in more ways than one. It is a painting in graphite and watercolour and it is one of several which make up two albums. The first mystery is that nothing is known of the artist, but from the age of the sketchbook and the clothing of the single human figure, it can be speculated that the paintings date from the 1930s or 40s. Other than that the artist’s motivation and intent can only be guessed at.

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"The artist has created a magical and fantastical world which we explore through the adventures of a young girl. Early in the sketchbook, she is seen setting out with a knapsack on her back, and with what seems like a sense of optimism; the colours are bright and the environment although always watchful is inviting. Our heroine flies high in a hot air balloon, above swirling clouds that seem to watch as she passes by. But then huge colourful birds surround her and in one unfinished work appear to be attacking her balloon bringing her to the ground. From there her story takes a darker turn as she enters enchanted forests, always watched by the trees and the animals. The little girl is then swept away in a fiercely flowing river and as she sinks under the waters she encounters even more unlikely creatures. Although many of the pictures seem to have sinister undertones, several are also benevolent, such as one in which she is cradled by a large ‘Buddha’ like figure. Unfortunately the artist did not finish the sketchbooks and therefore we do not know how the little girl’s story ends.

"I was attracted to the sketchbooks by the watercolour shown here. It has several universal qualities; the fear of loneliness, abandonment and the unknown. However it also appeals to a childlike innocence, reminiscent of a time when one feared the dark, monsters under the bed and believed in the possibility of the trees coming to life in the depths of the dark forbidding wood. Maybe as adults we still harbour some of those fears? Or perhaps we also yearn for a time when we still believed in magic or fairytales, because however bleak the situation there was always a happily ever after."