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Connexion readers may have solved 1960s holiday drawing mystery

The artist’s son asked for help identifying the scene sketched by his late father, hoping to gift his 93-year-old mother a photograph as a special birthday present

Mr Coker wrote to The Connexion for help with locating the scene depicted in his father’s drawing Pic: Drawing provided by John Coker / Christian Guerra / Shutterstock

This week, a Connexion reader sent us a drawing which his late father created during a family holiday in the 1960s, asking if we could help him locate its subject. 

 

Mr Coker’s father drew this pretty scene in the 1960s. Pic: Provided by John Coker 

The picture shows a large fountain topped by a knight and what looks like a bear holding a gun, who look out along a straight street of shuttered buildings towards a spired tower with unevenly placed windows. 

The artist’s son, John Coker, who lives in Birmingham having just returned from working in the Arab world as an English-language teacher, told The Connexion that he believes the drawing is 55 to 60 years old.

“Do you recognise it?” he asked.

Mr Coker had supposed that his father drew the picture in France, but during the same holiday the family passed through various European countries, so it is likely that it could have been elsewhere. 

“We were on a caravanning holiday in Europe and I was probably around 12 or 13 [at the time], and I know we picked the caravan up in Mönchengladback [western Germany].” 

“In the course of the holiday we visited friends in Salzburg, and passed through Strasbourg, but other than that I can’t remember much about the trip.

“We often travelled in Europe: my parents were and are great Europhiles. All four siblings took part in exchange visits with Austrian, French, Polish and Italian children.”

However, “I don’t have any particular memories of this trip, apart from being refused entry to a swimming pool in Austria because my hair was too long!

“I would like to find the place [where the picture was drawn] to take a photo of it. It is my mother’s 93rd birthday in a week’s time, and I would like to give her a picture of the place and the drawing, as a very special present. 

 

Mr Coker’s mother (second from right), is now a great-grandmother to baby Hermione, who was born three weeks ago to Mr Coker’s son Charles and his partner Lucy. Pic: John Coker 

“She loved my father very much, so it would mean a lot to her to have a memory of those joyful holidays.

“My father died in 2004, and my mother can’t remember the day or holiday in question, despite having an amazing recall of many other events in her life. 

“She has also kept diaries for all her married life, but this period has gone missing, hence why I would like to track down the place.”

A Swiss scene? 

Thank you to all the Connexion readers who have shared their thoughts on where the drawing could depict. 

Ideas included Alsace, Guémené-sur-Scorff (Morbihan), Annecy (Haute-Savoie), Aix-en-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône) Amboise (Indre-et-Loire) and Auxerre (Yonne). Several people also said that the image looked like Rouen. 

However, many of you also suggested that the scene did not belong to France at all but to La Neuveville in the French-speaking Bernese Jura area of western Switzerland. 

La Neuveville, Switzerland. Pic: paparazzza / Shutterstock 

The drawing does indeed seem to represent La Neuveville’s market street, with its red tower, city gate and Fontaine du Banneret, which is at the heart of the old town.

A plaque attached to this fountain states that it was built around 1550 by Laurent Perroud of Cressier (Neuchatel).

“I have fixed in my mind that the drawing was done in a mountain village, because we left the caravan on a site somewhere, and my mother and we children went off exploring the mountains while my father sat in the square,” Mr Coker said.

This memory fits with the idea that the drawing shows La Neuveville, as it is located at the base of the Jura mountain slopes. 

When we suggested that the drawing may depict a Swiss scene, he added: “I do seem to remember that someone said ‘Sehr schön’ to my father, so perhaps Switzerland is more likely than France.

Although Mr Coker’s father was not a professional artist, he was a mechanical and chemical engineer, “so I suppose he did some training in draughtsmanship.” 

This is the only one of his father’s drawings that Mr Coker has seen. 

Related articles 

Simon Beck: The artist reveals the secrets of his snowshoe drawings 

Meet the artist behind France’s new Napoleon commemorative sculpture

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