October 6th 2020 - John and Botany (I) - In an interview I conducted with John and Astrid for inclusion in their "Lost for Words" catalogue, I asked them for responses as to why gardening was amongst their favourite occupations. John replied: "My interest in botany should really read an interest in vegetation. I very much like the names of plants. One commonly hears persons going on about the beauty of the names of the various locations in the Shipping Weather Forecast. We get the same pleasure with plant names, perhaps because the language is pared down to the minimum. Geoffrey Grigson’s book The Englishman’s Flora is the most useful guide for this purpose." Astrid then pointed out that: "In the garden, I cultivate the salad foods and also the flowers. John does the other things, cabbages and so on. John was evacuated during the war to a farm in Sussex and then to the home of a jobbing gardener who gave him a small plot of ground to garden."
John particularly enjoyed drawing trees in winter. As he explained to me, the shapes of the branches and twigs were not merely more easy to draw but were interesting shapes. One of his early drawings, Rowden Cottage in Hazelwood Nailsworth, has been long in the collections of the Burges family who generously supported him from when he was a student. The drawing features Rowden Cottage where the Furnivals lived (also know to the locals as the Artist's Cottage and Bronowski's Cottage) as a tiny feature on the left side of the large ink drawing. When John was making the work (with a nibbed pen), he accidently tipped the ink bottle over the drawing but decided to keep the ink blot as foliage.
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