I just received my order of two copies of a lovely 2019 calendar from Wales (one for me and one for my brother). It is illustrated with paintings of village life in Wales by Welsh artist Valeriane LeBlond (www.valeriane-leblond.eu). The calendar text is in Welsh, so I can’t translate the titles, but the scenes include little white cottages with quilts hung out to air (even in the snow), row houses exactly like those I know my ancestors lived in, bucolic landscapes – this is the southern part of Wales, great farming country – with wind-whipped waves off shore. Neat stuff.
I discovered Valeriane’s work on Pinterest, to which I confess to be addicted. I check the app a dozen times a day just to see what new discoveries it generates by memorizing the pictures I save. While there are many photographs of the old country, I really like the work of local artists painting local scenes.
Search Pinterest with the name of the village or parish, county or country of your ancestors and add “art” or “artists” to the search. Those searches will lead the program to find more of the same, plus there will be links to some artists’ websites. You will discover many old and new artists who knew/know your ancestral haunts intimately. Another favorite of mine is the Welsh artist Sir Kyffin Williams (no relation), who painted the more rugged mountain areas of Wales.
The other half of my father’s ancestry comes from Yorkshire. A search for “Yorkshire art” yields interesting work with titles such as “Yorkshire Wolds,” “Millington Pastures, East Yorkshire,” “Port Mulgrave, North Yorkshire,” “The Denbigh Moors,” and “Harrogate, Yorkshire.” Even better, a search on my family village of “Huddersfield” leads to paintings of the old mill town.
There are posters for every stop on the vast British Railway system.
A nineteenth-century painting of “Thornbury Railway Station” in Gloucestershire is pertinent to my family and brings up the whole category of vintage travel posters. There are posters for every stop on the vast British Railway system. Aberystwyth, Wales, where Valeriane lives, is a seaside resort, which is reflected in many of her paintings. Posters for “Picturesque Wales,” “Yorkshire Dales,” “Yorkshire Moors,” or “The Lake District” are all meaningful because I have been to those places. I have found artists’ work of such far flung family origins as Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham; Tytherington, Gloucestershire; Hipperholme, Yorkshire; and Chepstow and Pontypool, Monmouthshire (Gwent).
And last but not least is Pilgrim Country. Aside from the old classics, I have found contemporary paintings from Dorking, Surrey, home of the Mullins family; many in Devonshire, the county of the original Plymouth; and in Norfolk, just to name a few. I could go on, but I’m supposed to be working.
Although all my ancestors are from Great Britain, I’m sure the same trick works for the rest of the world. Let me know what you find.