May 3 2011: Unsettling Felt-Tip Drawing of A Child (Derby, 31 August 1970)


This 1970 sketch came out of a small wooden frame found at the Cattle Market this weekend, with a mount that concealed the outer edges of the image: it’s not entirely clear if the faint drawing of the child’s shirt has faded to its present delicate colouring from a more uniform earlier blue or if the blue was experimented with outside the visible area of the image at some stage before framing it. Whatever the intentions here, the portrait itself is strangely unsettling, as the parts of the face add up not into something human and expressive but mask-like and artificial: an uncanny aura not dissimilar to the effect of the Aryan children in Hammer’s 1960 film Village of the Damned, an adaptation of John Wyndham’s 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos. The drawing ends up (I assume unintentionally) projecting the same unsettling feeling, though I would assume its maker was aiming for a straighter kind of portraiture than has emerged from his (or her) efforts.


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