Painting Durham Cathedral
I began painting buildings a very long time ago. I’m fascinated by how everything fits together, how the shapes and surfaces reflect the light and create the shadows and how the silhouette works against the sky.
Durham Cathedral from Western Hill, Watercolour
I fell in love with Durham Cathedral the minute I saw it from the train that was taking me to my interview for Neville’s Cross College in early 1973. Passing over Durham viaduct the city was suddenly revealed – houses, churches and trees crowned by a castle and an iconic cathedral.
John Ruskin, the great Victorian critic, called the view from Durham Station the eighth wonder of the world – and this from a chap whose house overlooked one of the best views in the Lake District.
Some of the very first paintings I ever made were of this building for the simple reason that they were painted for the Cathedral bookshop. I lived in several places in Durham - Neville’s Cross, Potter’s Bank, Crossgate, Gilesgate – and from each point found that the cathedral reveals a different character.
Durham is unusual for being a complete Norman cathedral – a tour de force of dogtooth arches, barrel vaulting and round-headed windows – where most British cathedrals are a collection of building styles depending on whatever look was fashionable when some money was available.
Durham was built to house the shrine of St. Cuthbert, whose much-travelled coffin rooted itself to the ground here. The monks who had been carrying Lindisfarne’s premiere saint around for 120 years (on and off) were probably glad to finally put the coffin in the ground and he still lies at the heart of the building.
I get a lump in the throat and a tear in the eye whenever I go back and I must have painted the great church dozens of times but I still find things about it that make me pick up my brush again.
In Notes from a Small Island Bill Bryson says: “If you have never been to Durham, go there at once. Take my car. It's wonderful.” I couldn’t put it better.
The paintings shown are all available from The Gallery, Masham. CLICK HERE for details
Artison are currently taking bookings for my painting course:
A Contemporary Approach to Watercolour
on Friday 18th May. For details and to book CLICK HERE
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