Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,

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Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley',
English, Completed in 1984,

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Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
in painted metal and wood, through his whimsical imagination Emett has created this extraordinary machine that whole-heartily reflects his unique talent combined with a very British sense of humour. This piece is the last and largest of this celebrated artist's output, and encapsulates many of the themes that appeared in his work over the decades. It depicts the tale of a pleasure trip on the Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Railway that tell a single, coherent story. The fully restored and working kinetic sculpture is in fact made up of eight larger-than life automata which complete the canvas of 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley'.

The centre of the creation features a train called Wild Goose, driven by an ingenious driver who toasts tea-cakes on the fire-box as the train trundles along a raised railway line. At Cowparsley Meadow a farmer plays his harp soothingly to his herd of cows, who nod their heads in appreciation. There is a large water wheel that turns timelessly at Far Tottering, its brass cups beaten and misshapen from years of use. In a secluded dell at Wisteria Halt, there is a beautiful flowering tree on top of which sits a clock – originally intended as the focal point of the whole piece. At Shrimphaven Sands, a fisherman can be seen out at sea, hauling in a net in which, rather surprisingly, he appears to have caught a mermaid. As Wild Goose continues its journey past Twittering Woods, an ornithologist is seen cycling along with his camera – he is disguised as a tree and has done such a good job at hiding from his quarry that a bird has chosen to make its nest in his bicycle lamp. On the beach at Oyster Creek, a bathing hut is occupied by an elderly gentleman dressed in full length Victorian swimwear, who dives dramatically into the water from time to time. Finally, for those passengers on Wild Goose whose wishes and dreams are not yet met, there is a wishing well, complete with a typically Emett-esque leaking bucket!

The machine would operate with the timing that Emett intended and therefore strikes at the quarter hour and bursts into life for a few minutes each time.

The sculpture is operated via 'smart plugs' into which each of the parts is plugged. These are, in turn, operated by a program that runs on the internet.

Dimensions
Locomotive: 2.7m long x 0.9m wide x 3.28m high
First Class Carriage: 1.4m long x 0.7m wide x 2.35m high
Flatbed Wagon: 1.4m long x 0.75m wide x 2.1m high
Rails 1: 4m long x 1.2m wide x 1.6m high
Rails 2: 3.4m long x 1.2m wide x 1.25m high
Buffers: 0.9m long x 1.2m wide x 1.25m high
Ornithologist: 2.5m long x 1.25m wide x 2.4m high
Farmer and Cows: 2.48m long x 1.25m wide x 1.6m high
Bathing Machine: 3.6m long x 1.25m wide x 1.6m high
Picnic Tree: 2.2m long x 2.2m wide x 6.22m high
Water Wheel: 2.8m long x 1.3m wide x 4.15m high
Wishing Well: 2.1m long x 2.1m wide x 1.86m high
Sea Fisherman: 1.2m long x 1.15m wide x 2.2m high
River Fisherman: 1.45m long x 0.9m wide x 1.4m high

Footnotes

  • 'It is cartooning, it's only cartooning in three dimensions. These are just extensions of the sort of drawings I like to do' - Rowland Emett

    Frederick Rowland Emett OBE (British, B. 1906 – D. 1990)
    Known as Rowland Emett he was a celebrated cartoonist, a brilliant inventor, a designer, engineer and constructor of whimsical kinetic sculpture (automata).

    Born in 1906 in London, England, son of a businessman and amateur inventor, and the grandson of Queen Victoria's engraver, Emett unsurprisingly studied art and started employment in the commercial art field. Seeing a friend paid handsomely by Punch Magazine for what he thought was a poor article, he submitted his own, quickly becoming one of the most popular cartoonists at Punch, and eventually becoming Cartoon Editor.

    Many of Emett's cartoons featured outlandish trains and railway scenes of strange bumbling trains with excessively tall chimneys and silly names. These did not go unnoticed and in 1950 the organisers of the 1951 'Festival of Britain' approached him to see if he might create a real-life version of his cartoon Far Twittering and Oyster Perch Railway (later renamed 'The Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Railway'). As such it became one of the main attractions at the Festival, carrying over 2 million people around the Festival park and made his reputation as a maker of mechanical 'Things'. This led to numerous commissions by commercial organisations and local authorities, and the ensuing years saw Emett creating many other machines and artworks that have continued to fascinate onlookers for decades. His larger works, such as Emettland, went on extended tours, ending up in prestigious venues such as the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The Ontario Science Centre in Toronto has a collection of about ten Emett creations and every December displays the restored working pieces, usually under the title 'Dream Machines'. The Mid-America Science Museum has had four of his inventions on permanent display for most of the museum's existence.

    However, his most recognisable pieces (in many people's eyes) are the crazy inventions or 'thingamabobs' of 'Caractacus Potts' (played by Dick Van Dyke) in the 1968 all-time classic movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Originally commissioned as a landmark clock, 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley' was destined to adorn a new shopping area in Basildon, England. But by the time the artwork was completed in 1984, those plans had changed. It was bought instead by the present owner and was not exhibited until 1992 – in Spitalfields Market, London. When it's time at Spitalfields came to an end, 'Cloud Cuckoo Valley' was again put into what was thought to be safe storage...but in 1999 it was stolen by some enterprising thieves from a warehouse in Hertfordshire. It was sold by the thieves to a scrap metal dealer who became suspicious and alerted the Police, and it was thankfully recovered.

    'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley' is a perfect example of Emett's whimsical imagination and is in his own words "the best and biggest of all his mechanical things".

    Exhibitions include:
    - Spitalfields Market, London, 1992.
    - Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, May 2014. The first Rowland Emett exhibition of its kind.
    - The Mechanical Things, Birmingham Science Museum, December 2016 - March 2017. Which featured 'Cloud Cuckoo Valley' as its centrepiece.
    - Chelsea Flower Show, London, 2017 - Birmingham City Council won both a Gold and Platinum Medal for the display at the flower show.
    - The Marvellous Mechanical Museum, Compton Verney, Warwickshire, June - September 2018.

    For further information, dimensions, additional images, condition and technical reports, and exhibition times, please contact the department.

    Please note: Due to the size of this piece, it will be disassembled immediately after the auction, ready for onward transfer as instructed by the buyer.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note this lot has been withdrawn and as such the sale has been cancelled.
Contacts
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
Rowland Emett's Masterpiece: 'A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley', English, Completed in 1984,
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