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1. The Arno Motor Company of Coventry 1908-1916, by Damien Kimberley
2. The Beech on Wheels, by Derek Robinson and forum member Foxcote
3. A brief history of Saint Osburg's, in pictures, by Damien Kimberley
4. The Brough Superior, by Damien Kimberley
5. Coventry Volunteer Fire Brigade - Illustrated London News, Jan 4th 1862
6. Coventry's Great Flood - London Daily Graphic, 2nd January 1901
7. Coventry's Rich Heritage, by Pete Walters
8. Coventry, the Home of the Cycle Trade - 1886 magazine article
9. Coventry, the Silk Trade and the Horsfall family, by Ian West
10. D-Day and Monty's Staff Car, by Paul Maddocks
11. The Dragoon Cycle Company of Coventry, by Damien Kimberley
12. Edwin Brown, Victorian Animal Artist, by Stephen Catton
13. The First Tudor Feast, by Richard Ball
14. The Great Flood of December 1900, and the lost Bridges, by Damien Kimberley
15. Henry Cave, and the 'Lady' Autocar of 1899, by Damien Kimberley
16. Let's talk about Rex, by Damien Kimberley
17. The Lion Bicycle Company of Coventry & Wolverhampton 1877-1882, by Damien Kimberley
18. Miss Bashford, a Teacher's Tale, by Simon Shaw
19. Motor Panels (Coventry) Ltd, by Damien Kimberley
20. The New Bablake Schools - 1889 article
21. New Drinking Fountain at Coventry - 17 Sep 1859
22. Not Forgotten, the 1939 IRA bomb attack, by Simon Shaw
23. Phil Silvers Archival Museum, by Paul Maddocks
24. Proposal for St. Michael's Campanile c1890
25. Public Baths - The Building News, Jan 24th 1896
26. The Saint Joseph the Worker parish in Coventry, by Terence Richards - Part 1
27. The Saint Joseph the Worker parish in Coventry, by Terence Richards - Part 2
28. The Saint Joseph the Worker parish in Coventry, by Terence Richards - Part 3
29. A short history of Coventry's Theatres and Cinemas, by Bill Birch
30. Sixty Years of Cycling - 1897 magazine article
31. The sound that almost killed my Dad in the War!, by Paul Maddocks
32. The Tapestry and its Hidden Secret, by Paul Maddocks
33. Transport Museum pt.1 - How the Queen's 1977 visit sowed the seed, by Paul Maddocks
34. Transport Museum pt.2 - New Hales Street Entrance in 1985, by Paul Maddocks
35. Transport Museum pt.3 - Creating the Blitz Experience, by Paul Maddocks
36. Transport Museum pt.4 - Coventry's Land Speed Record Cars, by Paul Maddocks
37. Transport Museum pt.5 - The 1987 F.A. Cup Winners' Sky Blue Bus, by Paul Maddocks
38. Transport Museum pt.6 - The Royal Cars, by Paul Maddocks
39. What links a Spitfire's landing gear to a baby buggy? by Paul Maddocks
40. What links R2D2 to a Coventry Hydrogen/Electric cab company? by Paul Maddocks
41. Whitefriars Gatehouse and Toy Museum, by Paul Maddocks
42. WW1 and Wyley of Charterhouse, by Paul Maddocks
43. 1930s Austin's Monthly Magazine articles, by John Bailey Shelton MBE
44. Plan for the City Centre - The Architect and Building News, 21st March 1941
 

The Tapestry and its Hidden Secret, by Paul Maddocks

The tapestry is from the bible which says; "In the centre is seated Christ. Round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast was like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within."

Looking at the Tapestry, I have always wondered what type of story Dan Brown could write about the mysteries of Graham Sutherland's Coventry Cathedral Tapestry. In Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code he looks very hard into the symbolism of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most widely read novels of all time. I am not saying that Coventry Cathedral's Tapestry has a historic secret to hide, but more a case of "what was Graham trying to say to us in the future?" I have always felt that the tapestry is more of a 'mood board' of the art and artists of the 1950s.

Francis Bacon painting studies
The yellow lines on Sutherland's tapestry that make a invisible room shape are very much like the invisible room shapes in paintings by Bacon.
Tapestry figures

The subject is a common one. 'Christ in Glory' has been done very many times throughout history; the last judgement, and the resurrection of Christ, from the last book in the bible. Graham was working within the very limited confines of the brief - it has to have Christ seated, with representations of St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke and St. John surrounding him. He also added to this an image of St. Michael, after the Cathedral. What is interesting about this image is the fact that it's taken from photographs by Eadweard Muybridge. Francis Bacon, a good friend of Graham's, was using these images in his paintings, so was he giving a nod to his friend in this '1950s Mood Board'?

Graham Sutherland
Pablo Picasso (left) with Graham Sutherland, centre.

Graham Sutherland was a skilled illustrator. He had taught art, etching, engraving and book illustration, and you can see that he can draw if you look at the face of Christ in the tapestry, but if you look at St. Matthew to the left, top of the tapestry, it's very Picasso like, and under that is the representation of St. Luke, the sacrificial bull - but this looks just like a painting of bull fighting scenes (note the blood and guts coming out of the bull) by Pablo Picasso, who we know was also a good friend of Graham's (see photo on the right of Graham Sutherland and what looks like John Hutton visiting Picasso at his studio). So, is Picasso also on the list of the '1950s Mood board'?

Top of the page
Christ on Cross

The Crucified Christ at the bottom is very Graham Sutherland, very much like his Crucifixion that he did for St. Matthew's church, Northampton, which Basil Spence had seen and liked and which gave him the idea to ask Graham to do the tapestry. What is interesting is the comparison between the cartoon and the finished tapestry. If you look at them both, at first you think the finished tapestry is a good representation of the cartoon. To do this they photographed the cartoon and did large black and white prints which Graham Sutherland went over and gave fine tweaks to. He would also go to the weavers and do alterations to the design while they were weaving. Did he discretely alter the design without telling anyone? We know he visited Pinton Frères of Felletin, France, on nine occasions. Could it be because it would not be seen until the tapestry was unrolled, and then it would be too late to change?

Sutherland had focused his artwork on the inherent strangeness of natural forms, and abstracting them, sometimes giving his work a surrealist appearance; in 1936 he exhibited in the International Surrealist Exhibition in London. So he would have wanted to pay homage to the greatest surrealist, Salvador Dali. If you look at The Madonna of Port Lligat 1950 paintings (below) you will see a similar setting - note the cuffs and hands of the Madonna - but what is striking is the loaf in the centre of Christ. If you look at other paintings by Dali the main theme is eggs!

Madonna of Port Lligat

Artists love doing folds in cloth, it's one way of showing off, but Graham has taken out the folds on Christ's knees in the Tapestry. Why? Would Dan Brown make a link between the bombed old Cathedral, a symbol of Christ's suffering which we commemorate on Good Friday, and the new Cathedral, a symbol of resurrection and re-birth, which we commemorate on Easter Sunday and in which the egg plays a big part?

Tapestry Cartoon comparison
The cartoon alongside the finished tapestry. Some subtle differences, especially around Christ's knees.

Graham Sutherland never attended the unveiling of the tapestry or the consecration of the Cathedral in 1962. Was it because he did not want the criticism, like he received when Winston Churchill mocked his portrait of him? Or did he know that a large egg in the middle of the picture would not go down very well?

Did anyone even notice? Or perhaps like in the tale of the Emperor's new clothes people only see what they want to see? What other symbols would Dan Brown see, what twists and turns, what tales could he make up? Who else is being represented, and which artist's style is the eagle and lion in? Can you see any clues? Is there a Stanley Spencer reference, or John Piper, Max Ernst, Elizabeth Frink or John Hutton?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Paul Maddocks, 2023


 
 
 
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