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John Carter mouth artist

John Carter. The artist who painted with his mouth

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John Carter. The artist who painted with his mouth

We continue our rubric, which tells about people with disabilities who, contrary to circumstances, continued to live, create, work, and left a mark in history.

John Carter at work (engraving by W. Hall)

“The first thing I remember: I am at school and I draw. Every time I got a pen or pencil in my hands, I always painted in my books or on a blackboard, and when I came home – on the walls. ” This is what the son of a poor agricultural worker, John Carter, who was born in Cogshall (Essex, UK) on July 31, 1815, spoke of himself.

From childhood, he had a lively mind, but this was manifested more in mischief than in success in his studies. However, he had one addiction – drawing.

After leaving school in 1830, John worked in a silk factory, where he earned a decent living. In 1835 he married. As he himself said later: “I looked at my friends and acted in the same way as they did: I often visited the tavern, and soon I began to like it.” He found it boring to spend evenings at home with his young wife, and in the tavern it was fun.

In his memoirs, Rev. Dampier, Vicar of Cogshall, wrote:

“He used to spend most of his earnings in a tavern – a sure sign of a depraved state. He neglected the observance of the Lord’s Day, often wandered with his comrades who could not teach him anything good, instead of going to church. ”

Rev. Dampier believed that what happened later was natural: "Without a dissolute life, the punishment would be unjust."

So, we come to the events of Saturday evening in May 1836. After good get-togethers at the pub, John Carter and seven or eight young people decided that it would be nice to go for a walk, at the same time to ruin the nests with rooks. John Carter climbed a tree, tried to jump onto another, but missed and fell from a forty-foot height (the height of a modern five-story building). When his shocked friends gathered around, they found that he was alive and trying to say, “Help!” They tried to help – John's breathing became a little easier, but he lost consciousness. Unhappy frightened comrades took John home to his wife distraught with sudden grief. The doctor, who was called at 4.30 in the morning on Sunday, found Carter "completely insensitive and motionless, cold and with a very weak pulse." Although John had virtually no chance, over the next two days he slowly recovered. It gradually became apparent that the young man would survive, but would be paralyzed below the neck.

When the fear of imminent death receded, Carter faced the frightening prospect of a completely different life. He was exhausted by shame and frustration for such a turn of events, full of deepest despair, trying to realize what had happened to him. Remembering his past life, he increasingly turned to the Church, where he sought and found spiritual food. John Carter concluded that his disability deserved: "Heavenly Father's punishment weaned from sin."

Detail of an original work by John Carter, copy of Buscar and his Friends. Thick ink mascara

The inhabitants of Cogshall tried their best to help him, in any case to console him. The parish provided John Carter with a small allowance for which he and his wife could exist. Six weeks after the fall, the couple returned to John's parents house – mainly for the sake of saving. Carter became interested in reading, especially biographies, and about a year after the accident came across curious memoirs. He recalled:

“I took books from my neighbors. One day, my wife brought home a treatise that told of a young woman who was in a madhouse in Liverpool. She lost the ability to use her limbs and enjoyed painting with her mouth. ”

Carter was delighted with this idea and did not calm down until he made an attempt to repeat it. The Treatise was actually the memoirs of Elizabeth Kenning, a thirty-five-year-old reclaimed thief, prostitute and drug addict who lived in a Liverpool house for penitent fallen women. There she was paralyzed, but the character and stamina of this woman impressed everyone who met her. The book "Memoirs of Elizabeth Kenning" was published in 1829, the year of her death.

Easel of John Carter, brush and pencil

So John Carter began to draw. Sometimes on a blackboard, and sometimes on pieces of paper pinned to a pillow, working with a pencil and watercolor brush: “I sent for a six-pence box of paints and immediately made a drawing of how it was brought.” Over time, the skill of Joe Carter grew, his later works are unusual and beautiful. After several experiments, he settled on a technique that involved drawing with a pencil, and then applying the mascara with a very thin brush. John's works resembled engravings.

Carter was assisted by Miss Anna Hanbury (later Mrs. Bramston). She was his frequent guest, sitting by his bed when he was drawing. She brought him books and did everything possible to ease his suffering. It was she who began to sell his drawings to her shilling friends each.

Rev. Dampier described the process as follows:

“The pose in which Carter painted was this: he was lying a little on his side, his head was raised on the pillows. A small, lightweight desk was made for him, made at his own request, and paper fastened with large pins with copper heads. At first he made pencil sketches, sometimes no more than four inches in length, which he held in his teeth. Having done this, he prepared a small saucer with mascara, soaked a brush with the help of a servant who put it in his mouth, and with the movement of his head he produced the most accurate and gentle strokes; the accuracy of his drawing was absolutely amazing. He used to use very thin brushes, some almost the same as needles, the brush was removed from his mouth, replenished and returned by a servant. Each picture required a lot of effort, because he had to stop often to rest. ”

It should be noted that in the reproduction of the work of John Carter is roughened and reduced. There was still no photograph, and copies could only be made by engravers or lithographers. When Dampier wrote the second edition of his memoirs, the engravers returned several drawings of Carter to him, explaining that their efforts "because of the extreme delicacy of working with the original failed, and we are afraid that we will not be able to make a satisfactory work out of them." The difference between the original and playback is very noticeable.

Lucy, Carter’s wife, suffered from heart disease for a long time and died in November 1841. Hannah Carter, John's sister, took care of her brother and became his constant assistant.

Carter's circumstances and his work gradually attracted the attention of the public, and he became an object of interest for surgeons, religious figures, artists, and everyone who visited him in Cogshall. George Richmond, a well-known artist, had with him and in his letter to the Rev. Dampier wrote: “At first I was going to just sketch his own face … But when I saw him with a short pencil between his lips, performing complex shapes with the greatest accuracy and skill, describing complex bends, it filled me with surprise and admiration. " John Carter was a pleasant young man, and visitors were deeply moved by his fate and his apparent acceptance of what had happened. Dampier tells us that John was "grateful to everyone and was ready to take on any work that was required of him." Local residents began to bring him paintings or prints for copying; some dragged dogs, cats, and even foxes; and all this, in turn, he performed with utmost care. ”

"Pied Piper and his dogs." John Carter Drawing

Many consider Carter's best work to be a drawing called "Pied Piper and His Dogs" commissioned by John Mills in 1849. Artist Edwin Landsir described it as “the best animal painting he has ever seen,” and Queen Victoria herself acquired a copy. The original work left with Frederick Mills in Boston, but was printed in the memoirs of Rev. Dampier in 1875.

Savior. (Unfinished) reproduction of John Carter's drawing

Carter traveled around Cogshall in a small carriage designed so that the couch on which he lay could be quickly attached and removed from the wheels. Chelmsford Chronicle wrote:

“People who were in Cogshall may remember how they met a man draped in the strangest way, lying on a carriage and harnessed by two boys. It was Carter, an artist. ”

It was this invention that led to his death on May 21, 1850. Pointing the carriage down a small descent, the boy who helped the artist stumble and fall, the carriage capsized, and Carter was thrown out. He seemed to recover quickly, but on Sunday, June 2, at nine in the evening, he died very calmly and peacefully with prayer on his lips. He was thirty-five years old.

Later, in 1850, the Rev. Dampier published a memoir, a copy of which was submitted to Queen Victoria, who sent £ 5 “for Mr. Carter’s parents and sister.” John Carter's fame spread throughout America, and in 1863, Frederick Mills wrote the book John Carter's Life, published in New York. In 1875, after the first edition was sold out, Dampier released another edition of his memoirs.

Translation by Denis Semenov

Original article

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