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Henry Silk’s Still Life

October 23, 2022
by the gentle author

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In 1930, basketmaker and artist Henry Silk sits alone in his sparsely furnished room in Rounton Rd in Bow surrounded by few personal possessions. He glances in the mirror and realises that he is no longer young. Yet the pair of medals from the Great War laid on the table remind him how lucky he is to be alive.

He wakes in the camp bed in the early morning and the empty green room is flooded with light as dawn rises over the rooftops of the East End and washing flaps on the line. Weaving baskets suits a contemplative nature and, when Henry returns from the kitchen with a cup of tea, he sits at the table with the pink cloth and studies the objects upon the surface in the morning sunlight.

The forms and colours of these familiar things fascinate him. His pipe, his purse and his pocket knife that he carried for years are as commonplace to him as his own hands. Each day, Henry paints a picture to catalogue his personal possessions, comprising the modest landscape of his existence. It is a whole life in a handful of paintings.

Henry Silk and his sister

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Henry Silk, Basketmaker & Artist

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11 Responses leave one →
  1. Andy Strowman permalink
    October 23, 2022

    This is a stupendous article because it exemplifies the modesty and the sacrificial element.
    In today’s world where politics of our country stumbles like a drunk man in the dark, Henry gave to others.
    In many ways the Gentle Author does too.

  2. Mark permalink
    October 23, 2022

    Great stuff.
    Like the chair and work boot.
    The photograph at the bottom brings to mind Walter Sickert’s ennui. Cool.

  3. October 23, 2022

    That’s amazing, Henry Silk did exactly what I also do every day: I observe the objects gathered around me (my desk looks like Henry painted it) in different daylight and document them — but I don’t paint them, I capture them photographically. Even coins and matchboxes. All little still lifes. As painted by Henry.

    Love & Peace

  4. October 23, 2022

    Very moving pictures.

  5. October 23, 2022

    If I may “come in a different door” with this comment — I not only appreciate this amazing array of ultra-personal paintings, but I also love the layout of the blog post today. These “slices” of paintings, each one a lingering glance at a familiar object or view, are so evocative. These mostly-horizontal views welcome us into the artist’s world………the collective grouping is like a click-click-click slideshow of a well-loved room. The pipes, the shoe, the laundry line, the rooftop, then back inside again……..the chair, the pouch — wait, that face in the mirror — the medals, the matchboxes.

    Thank you, GA, for this intimate introduction to Henry Silk.
    Onward and upward.

  6. Robin permalink
    October 23, 2022

    Beautiful and poignant.

  7. Nicholas permalink
    October 23, 2022

    Always a pleasure seeing these

  8. Marcia Howard permalink
    October 23, 2022

    A poignant story

  9. October 24, 2022

    WW1 must have left Silk in an isolated and lonely life. Thank goodness the gas didn’t destroy his eyesight or hand-eye coordination or we would not know of his talents today.

  10. Christina Gregoriou permalink
    October 25, 2022

    Morning, I would love to see these paintings in real life. Is that possible?
    Beautiful colourist. I really think they are beautiful paintings.

  11. Carolyn Hooper permalink
    November 1, 2022

    Bravo, Henry Silk! Just beautiful………..

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