Frank Jones Illustrated

Art of the Waterways: NarrowBoat, Summer 2022

Chris M. Jones studies a post-war article about boat decoration

Published on 8th December 1945, Illustrated Magazine carried a brief single-page article titled ‘Painted boats: traditional designs make canal barges things of beauty’. It featured two colour photographs showing painter Frank Jones at work at his employer’s boatyard at Linslade, Leighton Buzzard. The article, written in the typical style of the time, claimed that the decorative paintwork applied to narrowboats had Gypsy origins, a theory now disproven by dedicated research. Another assertion was that the floors of boat cabins were decorated and “covered with vivid geometrical patterns”. This is intriguing and, if true, evidence of this will have been lost to time, especially with the widespread use of practical and decorative floor coverings such as linoleum. It was noted that “nothing is stereotyped. Subtle variations of style proclaim the artists’ identity and tell the initiated whether the work was carried out at such centres of the craft …

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