Last time I was in Edinburgh I happily chanced across a place called The Museum of Childhood, which turned out to be quite amazing inside. It was free to get in and I’d somehow expected a rather sorry single room of lacklustre knick-knacks. Instead, there was room upon room of all manner of ephemera relating to childhood – not least a ton of old toys. My favourite room was packed with shelf after shelf of dolls of all shapes and sizes – about 90% of them horribly sinister. I was inspired to do some sketching of my favourites, some of which I later painted, and which I hope to share with you over the coming weeks.
This doll was apparently of a standard type known as the ‘Queen Anne Doll.’ It looked battered, dishevelled and so thoroughly unimpressed I was inspired to draw it. I love the way toys like this, designed to evoke childhood play and to be companions for children, appear so cynical, unfriendly and all-round fed up. I think it’s this strange and often inadvertent balance between the friendly and the sinister that I find so appealing about dolls. It’s as though their maker had one role in mind for them, but in the course of being made and being out in the world they have somehow taken on their own, very different character.
I couldn’t work out what this doll was supposed to be dressed as or why, but it seemed as though, as a character, she would have an intriguing and mysterious story behind her. Again, she was half sinister, half appealing.