George Smart the Tailor of Frant
George Smart was born in 1774 and died a pauper in Frant, Sussex in 1846. During these years he served as a soldier, worked as a tailor, got married, raised a family—and, quietly created a series of unforgettable works of art that have come to be seen as great examples of English folk art. He also created unique artworks that are recognized as hugely important within the idiom of English Folk Art. Yet there are no books dedicated to his life and work. In the summer of 2014 however, the spotlight finally fell on George Smart when 21 works by him appeared alongside other non-academic artists such as the Cornish painter Alfred Wallis and the embroiderer Mary Linwood, in the Folk Art exhibition at Tate Britain, London. This unprecedented exposure to a global audience sparked a huge interest in this imaginative and entrepreneurial artist, created the attention and widespread admiration that was his due—admiration that has culminated in this, the first book dedicated to his life and work
Despite the extent and assured attribution of his body of work, we actually know very little for sure about George Smart, the Tailor of Frant. Where he lived, the materials he used and the subjects he chose, sketches an impression of his genius loci; whilst the consistency, the quality and the quantity of his work, helps to add texture to this life imagined.The rest however-his motivation, his personality-is guesswork as, like most ordinary working men, his documentary footprint is almost non-existent.His silent artworks are all that speak for him now.
Drawing on the limited sources we have for his life, Jonathan Christie re-creates what we can know about his work and experiences, then goes on to sensitively extrapolate from that and his artwork to give us a fragmented, yet compelling picture of this charming, eccentric outsider artist.
Jonathan Christie is an artist and designer. He has exhibited his artworks throughout Britain and sold over 100 paintings and drawings. He has worked as an Art Director at the Radio Times and The Independent on Sunday and currently is the Creative Director at Octopus Books in London. He first discovered George Smart's work whilst at Art School and has been an admirer ever since. Jonathan lives in Frant-a few hundred yards from the site of Smart's house-with his family.
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