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Repository Cheshire Record Office
Level Collection (Fonds)
Reference D 4462
Title Sketchbooks and scrapbooks of the work of William Harold Hutchings
Date 1906-1960
Description Sketchbooks and Scrapbooks including drawings made during World War One in France and Belgium. Many of the sketches are marked with the date and place or date and name of the subject
Extent 39 volumes; 5 items
Administrative History Born in Toxteth Park, Liverpool in 1885. Trained at Liverpool School of Art. Employed by chemical companies United Alkali and Brunner Mond, later I.C.I., for nearly 50 years, as a commercial artist and clerk, his work includes family portraits; holiday landscapes; sketches for posters and advertisements; theatre sets and costumes; life as a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps 1915-1919; and local views and characters in the small town of Northwich, where he lived with his sister, Jennie. A sketch-book was always to hand - when hospitalised in the late 1950s, for example, drawings of doctors, nurses and other patients record the time that he spent there.

W H Hutchings exhibited at Liverpool, Manchester and Conway but is not a well-known artist. His most significant work is probably the large number of sketches that he produced during the First World War. Like the work of some of the 'official' war artists, they are drawn from the perspective of the serving soldier, the direct witness. They log one man's war: training in Kent; troopship to Le Havre; first aid post at St-Jean; the Lille Gate at Ypres; Belgian refugees; performers at the Brussels opera etc. Few cameras were allowed on the Western Front so many of these informal sketches may be the only contemporary record that we have of particular places or people at particular times. They capture both local people - 'old lady carrying a basket', 'Frenchman reading a newspaper', 'Priest, Wanquentin' etc. - and soldiers 'off guard' - playing cards, taking a nap, and, more ominously, 'Before the Battle, Somme 1916' etc.

On occasion, his lack of 'official' status as an artist may have helped him avoid censorship. For example, one of the more uncompromising drawings in our collection, 'Reveille,1917', depicts a skeleton blowing a bugle call on top of a mountain of battlefront debris. It was published in the Liverpool Echo under the title 'The Tragic Dawn of 1916'.

Humour was an important element in much of his work, whether for the firm's in-house magazine; a Christmas card for friends; or caricatures of councillors for the local newspaper. Towards the end of his life, a review of a one-man show at the local library reveals the variety of his work. It describes his exhibition as '…not only a history of his own life and interests but also a reflection on the life of Northwich itself. This one-man show includes portraits, still life and landscapes in oils and watercolours and also cartoons and sketches which show a lively sense of humour. They cover a lifetime of painting, with sketches from the 1914-18 war, holiday sketch books, designs for stage settings, cartoons and recent portraits. Local scenes depict the beauty of the Cheshire countryside and the work-a-day life of Northwich through the eyes of an artist.'
Related Material See also D 8026
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