Friday, 22 October 2010

Saving Lambert Barnard

Tudor Paintings in Chichester Cathedral

Ever since I was a tiny child I have loved Chichester Cathedral. Not only is it a beacon for home but it is a beautiful building containing a Chagall window an uncovered Roman mosaic floor and a myriad of other delights. The Cathedral has long been an advocate for the arts and alongside medieval stone carvings there are many contemporary pieces, mostly commissioned by Dean Walter Hussey who was a great patron to musicians and artists. The Arundel Tomb inspired Philip Larkin to write the famous poem of the same name and the composer Leonard Bernstein (who wrote West Side Story) composed the Chichester Psalms. It is a cliche to use the term 'treasure trove' but the Cathedral really is just that, especially to a child on the lookout for the carved mice on the wooden furniture or the monkey in the Tudor painting.

Lambert Barnard (what a name) was an English Renaissance painter during the early 16th century and was Court Painter to Bishop Sherburne for twenty years. During this time, Barnard painted a series of works on wooden panels which are displayed in Chichester Cathedral and which are currently in desperate need of repair and conservation work. Last night's Culture Show on BBC2 features the paintings and has some lovely shots of the Cathedral, you can watch it here. There is much more information about the campaign to save the paintings and about their relevance to English history, on this website here. The image below of Henry VIII is believed to be the only secular image of the King remaining in the Country thereby giving an indication of the way that he was seen by ordinary people.

I was so pleased to see these paintings being shown on the Culture Show as they are not in a gallery so do not always get the notice that they deserve. They hang on cold grey walls during christenings, marriages, funerals and watch over the general bustle of Cathedral life. The painting pictured at the top hangs in the South Transept which is where Coffee is served after a service. I like to look at it and think of all the eyes before mine which have done the same. The paintings are a constant presence, silently soaking in history as transient human activity takes place below. If only they could tell us all that they have seen.


  1. Dear BB, Thank you for this tour of Chichester Cathedral which I must confess I knew little about until now, being much more familiar with the Festival Theatre.

    The paintings are indeed charming and most interesting,but perhaps it is just as well that they cannot speak!!

  2. I've never heard of this! Somewhere to put on my list of places to go in England, definitely. Interesting depiction of Henry VIII, very unlike the paintings usually seen!

  3. Thank you for the little history lesson. My chances of visiting this Cathedral are very little so I love to see/read about these details. Yours are particularly intimate almost so its really appreciated.

  4. It's a real shame that art which remains in the place where it was first put can get so neglected. As much as I love and adore art galleries - and that is a LOT! - i do occasionally have that sense that it's all a bit false, for want of a better way of describing it. It's always amazing to think how much art is out there in the 'real world'... churches, cathedrals, private collections and people's sitting room walls! I do hope these will be restored.

  5. Such treasures absolutely must be held dear and protected. Living in a relatively young country I am in absolute awe of the history you have surrounding you in England. And King Henry actually looks quite handsome in that painting!

  6. Thank you for your lovely comment on my recent post BB, I appreciate it so much.

    Chichester Cathedral has an incredible history and looks wonderful. I do love cathedrals. Thank you for all the interesting links too.

    Oh and congratulatins on your column in The Lady. How exciting!


  7. After looking at this lovely account of your visit to the cathedral, I clicked on the Waterhouse painting. What a wonderful collection! I am so grateful for this introduction to a painter I was hardly aware of. Interesting to spot his use of the same models and to see his complete understanding of human anatomy.

  8. Thank you for this informative and interesting post. I sometimes visit Chichester and I am gradually becoming familar with the Cathedral..I first went in to find the Arundel Tomb, then the Graham Sutherland painting. I have seen these but until reading your post I was not aware of the history behind them. Having just finished Wolf Hall I shall make a point of going in next time I am in the city.

  9. I shall definitely look out for these when I next visit the cathedral as, much to my shame, I haven't studied them on previous visits. Congrats on your writing for the Lady. I have just been there and had a read and will look forward to future articles.

  10. What a beautiful post, written with much insight and knowledge and yet utterly private. I love how you reflect on the eyes - people - who have seen this all before you. I think of this often.
    The cathedral's collection is amazing.
    I love England and when I visit next, I shall make it a must-see!