Friday, October 19, 2007

St. George, Headstone

There is a secret history of twentieth century art that is only now starting to be told. Sir Ninian Comper, the giant of twentieth-century British Gothic, did not die until 1960, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral was not completed until 1970 and many other church furnishers and designers had done work up to those times in a traditional spirit, if sometimes abstracted and attenuated.

I was particularly struck, on stumbling onto the webpage of the (Anglican) parish of St. George's, Headstone, in Britain, of this sense of artistic continuity--which has included work done by Martin Travers (a very talented if still somewhat controversial figure) before his death in 1949 and further additions in his style done in the '50s, as well as a handsome font cover added as late as 2003, in considerable harmony with the other, earlier work.

Much of it is simplified in feel (perhaps too much), but the overall effect is quite handsome and serves as an interesting instance of something close to a traditional artistic survival rather than revival. Given the cost-cutting measures necessary in much modern church furnishing, the results of such abstractions (sometimes successful, sometimes not) offer an fertile field of practical study.

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