November 06, 2019

Gerald Dalton, Gerry's Pompeii


Gerald Dalton in his art environment, July 2019
this picture and the next one courtesy of  ©️Jill Mead 

Stretching over some 220 km (137 miles) the Grand Union Canal in England connects London with Birmingham. Along the part of the canal  that leads through West London one can find a 50 meters long wall with decorations and sculptures, part of a larger art environment that also includes a sculpture garden and an interior with various creations (located at the backside and inside of the white house in the picture below)

view from the canal on the decorated wall at the rear of the houses 
along the Hormead Road West London

Life and works

This art environment has been created by Gerald Dalton, usually addressed as Gerry Dalton, who was born in 1935 in Athlone, Ireland.  Due to severe asthma, as a young boy he was often unable to attend school, so his education remained limited. 

In 1959, at age 24, Dalton migrated to London, where he worked at the postal service in the Paddington district, had a job in cleaning machines in an aeroplane factory and was employed at the cafe of a business organisation for company directors. He retired from work in 1995 at age 60

facade of Dalton's ground floor house on Hormead Road 
(Streetview, april 2019)

In the early 1980's Dalton moved into a small ground floor apartment on Hormead Road in West London. Over time, he began to provide his living environment with all kinds of decorations and creations, a project that he would continue for some thirty years.

Interior


wall decorations in the interior
this picture and the next ones courtesy of  ©️Jill Mead 

The walls of the house have been lavishly filled with framed colorful images of historic sites and personalities, interspersed with mantelpieces and wallboards filled with an abundance of small-scale, brightly colored sculptures made by Dalton, that impersonate all kinds of characters from British history, including soldiers, princes, kings ...

replicas in the interior

Then, as can be seen on the picture above, the space inside also includes a number of replicas of in particular English palaces, castles and stately homes, such as Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and St Paul's Cathedral. The front room of the flat alone contains some twelve replicas.

a look at the interior of a replica

These replicas, made from wood, paper-mâché or card, mostly painted white on the outside, are very accurately modeled after the original and often the roof can be lifted, making the indoor spaces visible.

These spaces are usually equipped with furniture, wall covering and representations of residents, everything in dollhouse format, nicely furnished and colorfully executed.

The back garden

sculptures in the back garden

As depicted in above picture, in the back garden a large number of sculptures have been arranged in rows. Dalton often used the same mold to create them, making a distinction between the figures by differences in color and variations in small details

In a thematic sense in this arrangement once more a lot of attention is paid to historical personalities, such as Oliver Cromwell and Jonathan Swift

detail of a sculpture

A large row of mainly female persons is arranged in the front or a bright red painted side wall. The picture above shows a character in detail

The sculptures are arranged on identical cube-shaped cement blocks, with texts on the front describing the person. The relative similarity of the sculptures and the arrangement in rows gives this sculpture garden a rhythmic, as well as a coherent nature, qualities that mean that this back garden doesn't include just a separate collection of objects, but rather a work of art in its own right.

Decorated wall and arrangement of sculptures along the canal

some sculptures of female persons lined up 
in front of the decorated wall along the canal

The back gardens of the houses on Hormead Road are separated by a wall from a small strip of bank  alongside the Grand Union Canal. The strip is property of the housing company. It has a double row of conifers and it was quite messy before Dalton figured out that he could turn wall and strip into another part of his art environment. With permission of the housing company Dalton cleaned up the area, which took him a couple of months. 

The side of the wall facing the canal is covered with white plaster, which contains numerous individual decorative elements, such as tiles, busts and plaques, but also handwritten informative texts about the sculptures arranged in front of the wall.

These sculptures, neatly emplaced along the wall, have for the most part the same design as the sculptures in the back garden, but there are also a number of sculptures, especially of female characters in classical poses, executed in classical white.

sculptures of female characters on the strip along the canal

One would say that a strikingly decorated wall with a parade of sculptures in front of that wall does not go unnoticed and receives some publicity in the local press. But apart from the locals who in general appreciated Dalton, both because of his personality and his creative activities, outside of that group it remained silent around the self-taught artist and the way he embellished the public area along the canal, let alone that his indoor creations got public attention.

In July 2019, as part of a personal project freelance photographer Jill Mead, who works for various London newspapers and had tracked down the garden, interviewed Dalton and photographed his art environment. Publication of her photos might have led to a broader awareness of the site, but before it came to that, Dalton, aged 84, became ill and died in August 2019 in a London hospital.

Action and publicity after Dalton's death

After Dalton died, Sasha Galitzine, a friend of Dalton and current custodian of the property, took the initiative to start an action to preserve the site. The house and garden were opened to visitors, not just local residents, but also well-known people were deliberately invited, including Jarvis Cocker (well known in the field of art environments for his TV series Journeys into the Outside, 1999), influential people from the museum world, and of course TV people and journalists.

This opening up was a great success in terms of publicity, because, as can be seen in the documentation below, many large news media paid attention to Dalton's art environment and its future.

In this respect there is a major problem, Dalton rented the house and the rules for these homes include that the rented property must be vacated fairly soon after the tenant's death. a rule that does not allow that the house becomes a small-scale local museum. The housing company is willing to discuss the situation, but at the time of writing this article, there was no news about an outcome.

Documentation
* Website Help us save Gerry's Pompeii, edited by the action committee
* Alys Fowler, Hidden treasures: a statue-filled canal garden, article with a lot of pictures by
Jill Mead, in newspaper The Guardian, October 26, 2019
* Digby Warde-Aldam, What happens when an “outsider artist” dies, and who decides their legacy?, article with photographs by Miguel Santa Clara in Elephant Magazine, October 2019
* Various newspapers in October 2019 had articles about Dalton's art environment and its future, such as the Times, the SUN, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard
* In its next issue Raw Vision will have an article about Gerald Dalton and his site
Videos
* short video by Raw Vision (0'59", October 2019, You Tube)



* Video by BBC (October 2019, 1'34")


* Video by RTE News on Facebook (October 2019, 1'44")



Gerald Dalton
Gerry's Pompeii
34 Hormead Road, W9 3NQ
London, England, UK
the decorated wall
along the canal can be seen
from the road
streetview (2017)


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