Wednesday, September 9, 2020

ACEO Clown Portrait #178 "Whimsical Walker"

ACEO Clown #178  "Whimsical Walker"(1854-1934)
acrylic on paper, 
2 ½” x 3 ½” (64 x 89 mm), 2020

ACEO Clown Portrait #178 is homage to "Whimsical Walker" aka Tom Walker. He was one of the oldest clowns in UK. He was born in Jerrio, a small village two miles from Bury in Lancashire, 1854. His father was apprenticed by him to Pablo Fanue, a circus proprietor for seven years, and he had to do everything that could be done in the ring. At  first he appeared before the public at Burnley as a tiny clown who emerged from a carpet bag carried by another member of the company. 

In 1872 he was engaged for the famous Sanger’s Circus in Westminster Bridge Road, London (as a boy ”Uncle Tim” saw and enjoyed many shows there), where a stage performance was given in addition to the circus.  He admits that his stage efforts were so bad that he was sacked every night, but always re-engaged because of his skill in the circus. 

In 1874, and important period in his career, he was engaged by Charles Hengler to appear at his circus in London, where he was christened ”Whimsical Walker,” and for fourteen winter seasons he appeared there regularly. (”Uncle Tim” also enjoyed himself on rare occasions at Hengler’s, which stood on the site of the present Palladium.)

 In America  Whimsical appeared with other circuses, including the great Barnum and Bailey shows, and was also commissioned to purchase the famous elephant Jumbo from the Zoo at a cost of £1,000. Jumbo was an enormous success in America, many single day’s takings amounting to as much as £3,000. 

He was commanded to appear before the late Queen Victoria, at Windsor Castle on 25th February 1886, on which occasion Her Majesty presented him with a valuable pin, of which he is naturally very proud. He was also commanded to appear before the late King of Spain in Madrid just 22 years ago.

He trained two donkeys to perform, and took them to all parts of the globe. One became a well-renowned donkey, who could do anything but talk. One of his tricks was to sit on a chair, turn over the music with his nose, and sing "Home, Sweet Home." He had this donkey for three seasons at the Covent Garden Theatre, under the management of the late Sir Augustus Harris and Freeman Thomas.

Walker performed at Drury Lane pantomime until the death of Sir Augustus Harris. He has been engaged in seven pantomimes under Mr. Gilleno's management. He has played many parts, from Hamlet to his present occupation. The present is the last appearance of the Whimsical One in London, previous to his departure to America and Australia.

In 1886 he was commanded to appear at the first Royal Command Performance, staged at Windsor Castle, before Queen Victoria. His last performance before royalty was for the first visit to a circus of the Princess Elizabeth in 1934. He died later that year (10th November) in Gorleston-on-Sea, aged 83.

Laura Knight Great Parade (1928) Newport Art Gallery/ Bridgeman Art Library

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