Tuesday, December 26, 2006
My Christmas present to myself
I have just bought an original illustration by Martin Aitchison from one of the Peter and Jane Ladybird reading scheme books. I had slight misgivings about spending £400 on an picture from a children's book, as bookselling is not the most lucrative of occupations. However when I opened the package and saw the original, my doubts immediately vanished.
If you didn't grow up with these books, you're probably wondering what is so special about these workmanlike depictions of everyday family life around 30-40 years ago? The obvious answer is nostalgia, but I think there's more to it then that. There is something poignant, even tragic, in Martin Aitchison's paintings and whilst I don't think he laboured to create a subtext, there is one.
These scenes from an idyllic childhood are so powerful because they don't just capture a lost time but also an ideal that could never be fulfilled. In Peter and Jane's world it is always summer and there are no divorces, domestic violence, paedophiles or illnesses. Most of all, there is no boredom. Peter and Jane must go to school, but we only ever see them playing, painting, eating, frolicking with their dog or helping Mummy and Daddy. It is childlike view of the world and when I look at Martin Aitchison's wonderful illustrations, they are a poignant reminder of a time that never was.