Tuesday 2 September 2014

Dead Mans Penny-Edward Carter Preston.

Edward Carter Preston-The Unsung Craftsman
Mention the name.........and most people will have no knowledge of a man whose sculpture was commissioned on such a monumental scale. He entered a competition with 800 other submissions for which he received £250. The chosen design for the Death Penny, is called Pyramus
Maybe its because most of Carter Preston's work was for memorials and testaments to others, that his work has never been fully investigated.
Or it could be that his memento-mori's were of such heart rendering, that the public conception of death, and the glorious nature of conflict at the time, meant that they did not want to know the names of the people who recollected the memories of those glorious dead. There were so many grieving memories at a time when people wished to forget the horror of the carnage of World war I.
The perceived idea of art was to think of the classics as work passed down from an other age. To us.
Preferring to think that it was the work of an ancient age. Of Greek hero's, or Roman myths brought up to modern times. Death is all the same. But perhaps the classical style was why he, and many other unsung, hard working sculptors were so successful. People needed dignity, they had lost a lot.
That he gave, through his work, the dignity of death, to people, in treacherous times, and reinvented it on behalf of the top brass, the heavy establishment, those that cloaked the war, in glory, and gave reasons with which to justify the mass slaughter of a nations sons.
A justification.
The conflict that gave way to killing on a scale of mass production , that also gave us mass produced weapons of destruction, of a whole generations soul.
We wanted to mythologise the way those brave hero's went to the deaths.
Many without a wish to understand more than the basic of human instincts of self defence and proud nationhood, that would later be lost in a muddy field in a distant land.
What other cause can create the image of an old General saying “Your Country needs You”.
And they believed him. Maybe it would not happen today. The masses wouldn't let them get there. History would of course, in hindsight immortalise all those who who would not give way, and fight to the tyranny. That would defend their minds image of freedom.
These were the creation of the scarred generation that went on to create the horrors of World War II. But during the first World War they sang songs of freedom and home while being led to their deaths, on both sides, by the hands of Queen Victoria's privileged, but deadly offspring.
Who clung on to childish playground games, now played out with deadly consequences, for their subjects, that they sent over the top.
Gone were the lead soldiers, replaced by real flesh and blood, that tore.
Those in power counted a war in terms of how many more of the other side that you killed rather than the endgames. Those deadly games of starvation, and in the killing of civilians, many of who had had the fateful postman's knock themselves.
Just as many would die of broken hearts.
Could civilisation invent such a hatred for each other with a pretence of glory without even looking at the reasoning of why so much was wrong.
Or that the very Monarchs whose honour that they were upholding were the very cause of the disaster in the first place. They were the laughing assassins of war.
The faces that led the march. These tin pot dictators who had no concept of peasant life.
Just before the conflict began. The Tsar was seen to have gone out to a ball, the very night that hundreds of his subjects had been trampled in a stampede for images of him and the Tsarina....Did he really care about them?
So should they fight for him. For a time at least, they would. Before the Revolution.
Queen Victoria who gave birth to most of the ignorant spoilt fools, who were married off to congeal the Empires prowess. This small group of in-breeds spawned the generation of monarchs who sent us all of to war.
It really is a long way to Tipperary and most of them never would come back.
Paul Nash recorded the slaughter, with his, at times pretty emotionless depictions of bomb craters. And planes, that for me don't really show the true horrors of war.
I was at a local auction when a lithograph by Paul Nash of Hill 60 crater 11, made £23,000, for me it lacked the attachment, it just looks like a hole.
 It also lacked attachment for the pathetic Runcorn Auction Centre who valued it at £300. 
Nash was there, but it is shame, that his stylised depictions get all the credits, with retrospective exhibitions and epilogues, from the likes of Alastair Cook of the BBC, the next in the long line of peddlers of myths, they are the new establishment. The BBC.
So what we get from the establishment is an upgraded story from a new commentator who is too scared to go against the grain of the, said establishment, to say that the likes of Paul Nash is someone who couldn't really look, for fear because he was too scared himself.
That he did not record the true horrors, is true, because it is un-recordable.

I once found a Death Penny in a house that I was renovating when I was quite young. I did not know what it was then. But I kept it for a while until a military dealer spelt out the meaning to me. I recall admiring its detail but felt humbled, by its presence.
It was only worth about £30 at the time, there were a lot of them around.
It was not for a general or a Colonel, although there was no mention of rank, on the bronze plaques as there was no distinction to be made of the sacrifice of individuals.
They are frequently traded.
A few years later when I had learnt more about the facts that led to the deaths of so many across Europe. The same war would even bring in Americans, Canadians and Australians, it really was a World War.

And so what of the man whose initials E.Cr.P were cast into the bronze roundels that where sent to the next of kin.
The Death Penny is 5inches (120mm) across cast in bronze by the memorial factory of Acton road London. With its brave lion walking with Britannia holding a trident in the centre, as a depiction of the strong and noble British spirit. In her other hand she has a oak wreath just above the tablet that would bear the deceased name. Two dolphins swim around Britannia, symbolising Britain's sea power, and at the bottom a second lion is tearing apart the German eagle. The reverse is blank.

He didn't show the donkey symbolising those that drove the brave soldiers to death, for it would not have been right to pour scorn on all those that never returned from the fight for King and Country.
He just give it to them straight. As they would have wished, as they deserved .
He would have been proud to have been commissioned.
And he should be rewarded for it. For without the approach of dignified sculptors such as Edward Carter Preston, who knew their trade and did it well, we would not have been able to remember the many. And as bronze lasts it is now possible to look back into the individual stories behind the lives of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The lives of the Lords and the labourer were to both be remembered equally.
They made that sacrifice hoping it would give us our freedom.
What price a Dead Mans Penny............Immortality.

I was one of the last people to see the culmination of the collection of her fathers work by Julia Carter Preston at her house in Canning Street here in Liverpool. The whole of hers and her fathers work and their memories too, went off to Hope University, to probably be lost for now.
We need an exhibition of his work a retrospective he was a very clever, and dignified man who does not get enough recognition, in my opinion.

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