Papers reveal spat with Coventry Cathedral over tapestry
Published 16 May 2012
Bonhams is to auction a cache of Graham Sutherland's papers in which he talks about the process of designing and manufacturing his world famous tapestry, Christ in Glory.
The tapestry hangs over the high altar. It took 10 years to make and was woven by Piton Frères at Felletin in the Limousin region of central France.
The weaving process was not without its difficulties as Frères could never see more than 1ft in height of the tapestry at any one time during its creation.
Even once the tapestry had been completed, the difficulties continued as cathedral authorities refused Sutherland permission to hang the tapestry before it left France in order to make any last minute adjustments.
The letters convey Sutherland's problems with the cathedral authorities and its Reconstruction Committee as the project neared completion.
According to Sutherland, the French Culture Minister, novelist André Malraux, offered to hang the tapestry for him in the Sainte Chapelle in Paris in return for limited public access but the Committee refused the offer.
Sutherland expresses his disappointment over the situation in one letter: “As I have made several 'redification' while the weaving has been going on this is a blow to me.
"It seems that no time has been arranged or allowed for the work to be hung and there were difficulties, too, in finding a building large enough in which to hang it.”
The original medieval Coventry Cathedral was destroyed during a Luftwaffe attack on the city in 1940.
The construction of a new cathedral alongside the ruins of the old was intended to be a symbol of reconciliation.
In addition to Sutherland's tapestry, the new cathedral premiered Benjamin Britten's specially commissioned work, War Requiem, in which the German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau joined the British tenor Peter Pears in the leading roles.
The auction of Sutherland's papers at Bonhams takes place on 12 June, just a few weeks after the 50th anniversary of the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral on 25 May.
The papers are estimated at £1,500 to £2,000.
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