This story starts several months ago when I was doing one of my regular check-ins on The Creative Exponent Community Facebook page. I was scrolling through the recent posts and stopped immediately when I spotted a grouping of photos of the most wonderful sketches. They were pencil sketches and watercolors of English cottages with thatched roofs and half-timber or brick construction. I was immediately smitten with them and clicked on the caption to find out why someone was posting these pictures on the forum. Julia of Ponder & Purchase found these antique sketchbooks at a local estate sale (she lives in England) and was asking for advice on how to handle selling such a special find. My first reaction was, “Sell them to me!!!” But, I gave a more professional, objective answer. These are special and they should be researched and perhaps sold at an auction house where they could fetch a high price.
After a few updates on the antique sketchbooks from Julia, I finally decided to throw my hat in the ring and let her know I would be interested in purchasing the sketchbooks if she intended to sell them. Julia let me know she was going to do some more research and would follow up soon.
A few months passed and those antique sketchbooks kept popping in my head. At one point, I even had a dream about them! In the dream, I was looking through them and making my own studies off of the sketches. I have been buying and selling antiques for years and I can’t ever recall having a dream about something. But these were so special and truly one of a kind and, beyond that, I just felt like they belonged with me. If they weren’t going to stay with Julia, who obviously loved and appreciated them, they belonged with me,
After quite a bit of research on all of the possible outlets for selling the books, Julia decided to sell them to me. She probably could’ve gotten more at an auction house, but they would’ve split them up and she would have no control over who bought them or what they do with them. In my hands, she knew they would be loved and shared (and she could virtually visit with them any time.)
We both bit our nails as they made their well-insured trip across the Atlantic until they arrived at my house a couple of weeks ago. I did get emotional as I turned through the pages of these journals I’ve had dreams about, drawn and painted by a man I’ll never know, an ocean away, over 100 years ago. I truly feel honored to own something so special.
My fellow antique- and art-loving readers, I am over-the-moon excited to share the antique sketchbooks of George Herbert Kitchin and introduce his beautiful work to you…
Just take a little breath before scroll down…
These sketchbooks, created between 1898 – 1916, capture the beauty and classic designs of English cottages, houses, estates, churches, and castles as seen through the eyes of a talented and prolific architect.
The antique sketchbooks contain hundreds of graphite sketches, watercolor paintings, and architectural floorplans and studies. (There are even some journal entries in the oldest book.) Some of them are more completed drawings, capturing a house as well as the surrounding area and people in it…
And others are more about the details of a baluster, column, window, or carved detail.
And, I love his floorplans, which are a little peek into the essentials of a Victorian or Edwardian cottage… (I did find it interesting that his measurements are in feet and inches instead of the metric system.)
Isn’t the handwriting just delicious, too?
As a part of owning the antique sketchbooks, I feel compelled to learn more about Mr. Kitchin and to share his work. He did not marry or have children and his personal property sadly (yet happily for me) ended up in a sale, so I will do what I can to share the parts of his story that I can learn. I don’t know how or in what form, but I have so many ideas! Julia had already done some research and discovered he’s the son of The Very Reverend George William Kitchin and his family has a connection with Lewis Carroll. The Kitchin children, including George Herbert, were photographed by Lewis Carroll. This picture of young George Herbert is in the J. Paul Getty Museum…
George signs all of his sketchbooks as GH Kitchin, Compton End, Winchester. So, I looked up Compton End, a home he renovated and live in, and was able to find a picture of it…
Isn’t this just the most charming home?
I was actually able to buy a picture of the gardens at Compton End, which he designed, that was taken in the 1950s on Etsy!
Julia also shared over the weekend that she was digging through a stack of postcards at a sale and found one to “our man” (as we call him now), GH Kitchin at Compton End, Winchester. She is going to send that to me along with a photo album, postcard album, and an album of home listings that all belonged to “our man.”
So, I scanned the books for five days to get them in digital format. It takes about three minutes to scan each page (I scanned them in a very high resolution), so I scanned, folded laundry, scanned, vacuumed a room, scanned, edited photos, and so on. I get a lot more done when I was working at my computer since I was alerted when a page is finished, but I just slowly chipped away at it until I got to the last page. Now they are all scanned…I don’t know! Maybe a book, maybe a project (sketches & paintings inspired by his work), maybe limited edition prints, maybe a trip to visit & paint the places he sketched that are still standing, or maybe a little bit of everything!
All I know is that I’m inspired by these antique sketchbooks. I’m inspired by the way GH Kitchin sees the world and how he recorded it. I’m inspired by the simple tools he used (usually just a pencil and I’m guessing a small ruler) to capture beauty. Perhaps he had a box similar to my antique drafting box. I’m inspired to sketch more. And I feel a kinship with him in our mutual love of houses. Perhaps that’s why I love these sketchbooks so much. They are an amalgamation of so many things I love…antiques, art, and home.
PS – Ponder & Purchase is an Etsy shop where Julia sells her finds in England and she has amazing pricing! She has a lovely watercolor sketchbook listed HERE along with so many other wonderful finds…tins, jam pots, Victorian lithographs, watercolors, and I know she found some great vintage watercolor sets that she’ll be listing soon. She’s working on adding shipping to the US to her listings, so just contact her directly if there is something you’re interested in purchasing.