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For more than a quarter of a century there has been no book on the folk art of Britain, the origin of so much distinguished American folk art. Now James Ayres has admirably filled the need with BRITISH FOLK ART, a profusely illustrated, wide-ranging study covering the period when traditional folk art was in full flower before it succumbed to the Industrial Revolution.
The informative text of BRITISH FOLK ART surveys both main categories of folk art: the work of professional craftsmen - usually men - whose technique was proficient; and the work of amateur artists - often women - whose vision, while amazingly sophisticated, did not require the specific craft skills of professional career training.
In its best-known guise, this folk art was concerned with shop and inn signs, weather vaines, decoration and objects for the home, circuses and fairs, and with ships and seafaring. Amateurs produced patchwork and embroideries, toys and puppets.
Ayres's book is both beautiful and distinguished in its scholarship. It fills a gap in the Anglo-American world of art and society.
JAMES AYRES is the curator of the John Judkyn Memorial. Previously author of books and articles on American arts and antiques, he now fills a gap with this unusual work establishing the background for our later American Arts.