Chichester Cathedral: Acclaimed and Renowned Artists in Chichester Cathedral History


The first notable figure is that of the architect Christopher Wren, designer of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. In 1684, ten years before the completion of St Paul’s, Wren repaired the unstable steeple by constructing an ingenious pendulum to counter and protect the steeple from southerly and southwest winds.

The next famous figure with connections to the cathedral is John Hardman. He was one of the world’s leading manufacturers of stained glass at the time and is considered an important figure in the Gothic revival.

In 1862, Hardman installed the west window of St. George’s Chapel, depicting the Acts of St. Paul, designed by Augustus Pugin, who is considered another major architect and designer of the Gothic revival of the 1800s.

High altar tapestry, designed by John Piper and installed in 1966. Photo courtesy of the Dean and Cathedral Chapter.

In addition, the cathedral has been a source of inspiration for many major artists. JMW Turner and John Constable both created 19th century cathedral paintings, both commissioned by George Wyndham, the 3rd Earl of Egremont, which they both visited at his residence at Petworth House.

Turner Chichester Canal’s painting was painted between 1827 and 1831 and features the cathedral in the distance beyond the canal. Notably, the paint has a yellow undertone, a result of how in 1815 a volcanic eruption in Indonesia created a veil of sulphate aerosol that blanketed the stratosphere around much of the globe, including above Europe.

The Agent’s painting was completed in 1834 and was one of a series of Agent’s works that featured Sussex landmarks including Cowdray House and Arundel Castle. These paintings are exhibited respectively at the Tate and at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

In the mid-twentieth century, ecclesiastical authorities were faced with the rise of seemingly alien and surreal modern art, as Romantic art became outmoded, resulting in a new renaissance of Church art. This was brought to Chichester by the personalities of Bishop George Bell, who believed that modern art should be at the heart of modern life, and Dean Walter Hussey, who took office in 1955 and was known to work with controversial and avant-garde artists. .

Painting Noli Me Tangere by Graham Sutherland, completed in 1960. Photo courtesy of the Dean and Cathedral Chapter.

After initially considering commissioning a sculpture of the Lord and Mary Magdalene from famous abstract artist Barbara Hepworth, they instead commissioned a painting by Graham Sutherland, later famous for creating a portrait of Winston Churchill as the man himself disapproved, to add color to the cathedral. in 1957.

The painting, Noli Me Tangere, was completed in 1960, depicting Jesus being recognized after his resurrection. The painting turned out to be somewhat controversial, as a local resident, Mabel Winifred Norris, attempted to degrade the artwork with a ballpoint pen.

Regarding the incident, she reportedly said: “This photo fills me with disgust … it is a cathedral that belongs to the people.”

In the early 1960s Sir Kenneth Clark, influential art historian and BBC TV presenter, acted as advisor and publicity agent for the cathedral redesign, with Welsh artists tasked with creating new Copes ( liturgical garments or mantles worn by Catholic and Anglican clergy) in a more avant-garde style at Clark’s suggestion.

Stained glass window designed by Marc Chagall and completed in 1978. Photo courtesy of the Dean and the Cathedral Chapter.

The Dean then commissioned a tapestry by John Piper on the recommendation of famous sculptor Henry Moore to hang behind the high altar. The work was completed in 1966, measuring five meters high and one meter wide.

The tapestry represents the Holy Trinity through a series of abstract shapes, a green triangle representing indivisibility, as well as a white disc representing God, a purple cross for the Son and a feathered flame for the Holy Spirit.

In 1975, the Dean commissioned a colorful stained glass window from Marc Chagall, one of Russia’s most distinctive modernist artists. This was completed in North Choir Island in 1978 and represents the instruments mentioned in Psalm 50, such as the harp, organs, and symbols.

The cathedral continues to commission and exhibit inspiring modern art pieces, drawing inspiration from a variety of different subjects in an ongoing program of temporary exhibitions throughout the year.

From October 25 to November 14, the cathedral hosts The Museum of the Moon by Luke Jerram, a fusion of lunar imagery and surround sound composition by award-winning Bristol composer Dan Jones. You can find out more by visiting the Chichester Cathedral website.

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