Llandaff Library staff talk about art: Catherine Finch

‘Wassin’ – unknown Nigerian artist c. 1960’s untitled (fishing scene) house paint and detail

Unknown Nigerian artist (privately owned by Catherine’s family)

Unknown Nigerian artist (privately owned by Catherine’s family)

This picture was bought in Nigeria from an artist/tradesman in early 1960s.  Tradesmen used to visit ex-pat houses to sell art and crafts and my mother was instrumental in buying the picture, purely on an aesthetic level: that it was nice to look at.  They didn’t find out much about the artist or where it originated, though it’s likely that it was done with house paint.  Only the name “Wassin” at the bottom of the picture gives a clue to the identity and there is no online record of him.

My parents moved back to England in 1966 and I (the first of four children) was born three years later.  My early years were spent moving around a lot as my father would get different jobs up and down the county.  By the time I was six, we had lived in six different places before finally settling in a Derbyshire village.

But despite frequently moving, the painting remained a fixture in the sitting room.  Although more impressionistic than realistic, I would spend many moments just staring at it.  The water around the fisherman’s waist always appeared to be moving and I’d be willing him back to his girlfriend/wife waiting for him on land.   It’s a dreamy picture, almost nostalgic and homesick for a period of time or place where the artist was happy.

This painting and a grand ebony bust called Esmerelda (with her lumpy cone-like head), are both Nigerian artefacts that have remained prime fixtures in our family’s lounge despite the changes of time.  But the artists and their stories remain faceless and only research and investigation will help us find out more.

Catherine Finch is Art and Design librarian at Llandaff Library

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