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G Puckey Artist in Swindon

Attributed to George W. Puckey, 1888 - 1963

Amateur Painter living in Swindon circa 1911.

Original Images on display at Swindon Museum and Art Galley

  

Paintings "Attributed to G Puckey"

Photographs from the Trust's Collection

 

GLW SWIM_PCF4-1000 Telford Road Bridge 1910 photogragh copy 

Whilst refurbishing the Trust Shop in Swindon we became very interested in the structures associated with the canal in Swindon – in particular bridges. Our attention was drawn to a series of paintings of 24 local scenes in Swindon Museum, 12 of which depict the canal.

 Several of the paintings seemed very familiar and were similar to photographs in Doug Small’s books – particularly one painting of Telford Road Bridge and another of Marlborough St Footbridge

GLW SWIM_M15098-1000 Marlborough footbridge

 

Swindon Museum has no record of the paintings’ origins, or how they became part of the municipal collection. “Donated by J Powell”, and the name “G Puckey” on a few of the paintings were the only clues. Thus we sought help from the Swindon Society and Swindon Artist’s Forum, whose comments are quoted below.  

Alderman James E Powell, known as “Raggy” to the inhabitants of Swindon was, according to The Swindon Society, a rag and bone man - a scrap merchant.  He probably came to Swindon c1890 from London. Unable to read and write he was taught by Swindon notable Reuben George. . Raggy made lists of local residents to practise his calligraphy.

Raggy retained interesting items he found, in a collection which formed the basis of Swindon's first museum in Regent Circus. It is possible the paintings are part of Raggy’s collection. He became a Freeman of the Borough in 1920 and died in 1929.

The signature led us on a quest to identify the artist. Swindon Artist’s Forum identified a Puckey but the 1880 date on the Telford Road Bridge painting, which would have made him contemporary, was found to be incorrect.

  

GLW SWIM_M15104-1000 Cambria bridge

Research has found a later George William Puckey, who would have been about 23 years of age in 1911. Some of the photographs we think were used as patterns for the paintings were taken in the years 1912 - 14. He was born in Plymouth, moved to John Street, Swindon (census 1901) and later to Vilett Street (census 1911).  He is described as a van driver.  He married Beatrice Weston in Brentford in 1929, and died in 1963 in Ealing. 

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Lesley A Cornish   (Chair Swindon Artist’s Forum)   comments on Puckey’s paintings  “I would say he was a hobby painter who produced work for sale as souvenirs to supplement his income.   Not valuable from an artistic point of view, but of great interest to such as yourselves for historical relevance”.

There is a lot of nostalgia in these artworks. They have been sanitised of the ugly, with even, tidy and regular buildings, and the paintings have been ruralised, removing traces of the town, to a time when the canal ran through countryside. Some of the dates are fanciful, put there to create an impression. 

 

 

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He was reluctant to paint figures, only two and one horse appear, although the original photos, for example The Golden Lion Bridge, are packed with people.

The pictures bear titles and other inscriptions which to our inexperienced eyes give the impression of differerent hands. Only a few of the pictures are signed  and some have locations written in joined script while others have a bolder capital letter form of identification. Could this be Raggy practising his calligraphy?

 
New swindon Puckey

The painting entitled “New Swindon, Wiltshire  1847” raises  the question as to how an artist (or a photographer) would compose a picture, with the tree right in the centre obscuring a major group of houses? We do not know of any model for this picture. St Mark’s Church is clear, and the railway works, but only half the Railway Village (but which half?). Park House, a major villa which still stands in Faringdon Road and which predates the Railway Village is missing as is one of the two managers’ villas which stood between the Works and the Station. If we suppose that this scene is from what is now Curtis Street then the area was built up before George arrived in Swindon so it is not from memory.

 

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Swindon Artists Forum said the paintings were of little artistic value. It seems that they are of little historical value either.. Certainly it would be erroneous to attempt to use them as reference pieces. However, they are pretty pictures and if reproductions were available they could make an interesting wall decoration

GLW SWIM_M15085-1000

 

The paintings are on display at the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery on Bath Road (SN1 4BA) in Old Town.  The displays dealing with many aspects of Swindon history are well worth a visit. The Museum is open Wednesday to Saturday from 10.00am to 5.00pm

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By kind permission of the Museum, we also have colour copies of the paintings on display, in The Trust’s shop at 1 Theatre  Square. We are open on Fridays.

We would be delighted to hear from you if you have any information about George Puckey the artist, his paintings or indeed if any of the above is incorrect – but we do know that this George Puckey's  Father was a butcher!

Carsten Drew