Who can resist a peek into someone else's sketchbooks?
They're such a very personal insight into the creator's life and the particular time in history to which s/he belonged
But when the sketchbooks belong to a significant 20th century British designer like John Seymour Lindsay, they are also an important historical record.
John Seymour Lindsay - Designer, Artist, Author
John Seymour Lindsay was a designer and metalworker born in London in 1882.
He showed early talent for drawing and painting and was apprenticed, at the age of seventeen, as a designer and draughtsman in St John Street, Adelphi.
From this simple beginning, Seymour would later go on to create metalwork designs for the Battle of Britain Chapel in Westminster Abbey, the Tudor kitchens of Hampton Court Palace and the restoration of St Alfege church in Greenwich.
Lutyens’ Metalwork - Not All His Own Designs?
Seymour's contribution has been - until now - largely submerged beneath the reputations of his famous architectural patrons – Baker, Lutyens and Richardson.
Commentators generally accept the metalwork as theirs, although it's likely that some, perhaps much, was really designed by Lindsay.
One example is the Lutyens house at Little Thakenham, Suffolk, which has distinctive iron door-latches remarkably similar to those drawn by Lindsay in his book An Anatomy of English Wrought Iron (1964).
Digitalising Social History
Whilst delving into family archives, my close friend, Paul Middleton - a British independent publisher interested in social history - discovered a stash of unpublished sketchbooks belonging to Lindsay who turned out to be the grandfather of his wife, Pippa.
Paul, whose career in publishing spanned 30 years at Reader's Digest and Times Books, has been gradually digitalising the treasure trove of Lindsay's images and converting them into an eBook series: The hidden art of John Seymour Lindsay.
Although some of the books in the series feature Lindsay's formal metalwork designs, my favourites are the sketches and watercolours, which offer a privileged peek into a time most definitely gone by.
Postcard to Mildred Williams JSL's fiancée, from Auchnagairth, Corriegills, Brodick.
Watercolour on paper, 1914. Reverse reads: 'The sketch is of the old Druid's stone up on the Lamlash Road ... How I hope for peace'. (An ironic comment in view of the date of sending the card and JSL's subsequent involvement in the Great War.) John Seymour Lindsay © Paul Middleton
What visual legacy will you leave?
This personal and privileged glimpse into Lindsay's life makes me wonder if, even now when sending print-on-demand postcards from your smartphone is only a digital button-press away, it might still be advisable to do like Lindsay: Always travel with a sketchbook, watercolours and a good selection of pencils.