Wednesday November 15 2017

We have just finished cataloguing the archive of John Craske, a Norfolk artist. We recently featured one of Craske’s works as our object of the month, which you can read more about here.

Originally a fisherman, Craske (1881–1943) was diagnosed with a brain abscess when he was 36 and was confined to bed for much of his life. With the help of his wife Laura he learned painting and embroidery, work he could do while lying down. In his lifetime he produced hundreds of evocative works of ships and the sea, including incredibly ambitious projects such as a 10-foot long tapestry of the evacuation of Dunkirk.

The papers tell us not only about Craske but about other key people in his life and work. These were his wife, Laura Craske; Sylvia Townsend Warner, Valentine Ackland and Elizabeth Wade White, who, as well as being themselves in a deeply complicated love triangle, all worked to have Craske’s work exhibited; and Peter Pears, who helped to assemble the Craske archive we have today. Britten and Pears were fans of Craske, and many of you will know the Craske embroideries and paintings in The Red House. There are several more at Snape Maltings, making Aldeburgh a key destination for fans of the artist.

The papers – including correspondence, photographs and early publicity – were originally uncatalogued, which means we only had a general description of what they contained. We have now listed them item by item, and you will soon be able to see the list by searching our online catalogue. This will make it easier for researchers and people interested in Craske to navigate our collection, and will make Craske’s history more accessible to the public.

By Abigail Williams, Archive Graduate Trainee