Sunday, February 23, 2014

The witch's hat

James Alexander Cameron, a second-year PhD research student at the Courtauld Insitute of Art researching sedilia, the seats for the priest, deacon and subdeacon found in the walls of many of England’s parish churches, recently visited the Suburb and St Jude's.  

He posted his reactions - and links to his photos - on his blog

"I don’t need this “Open House” nonsense to get in interesting buildings, I left the queuing to hoi polloi and went on a guided tour of Hampstead Garden Suburb, in which we got to tramp through a newly-moved-in-resident’s back garden which was rather exciting. I feel it is above and beyond my call of duty to upload and label my pictures of the various properties (this is also the third time I’ve been round with a Pevsner) so I’d just like to say I think I decided that day I would like to live in this one, with a Neo-Elizabethan glazed bay, the most (please).

The centrepiece of course to the suburb is Nedi’s bizarre witch’s hatted, at the very least stylistically bizarre and at worst downright reckless (barrel vaulted nave with open timber aisles?? What are you thinking, you fool?!) St. Jude-on-the-Hill. The most amazing thing about the church are the paintings, over seemingly every inch of wall and ceiling space, by Walter Starmer, 1919-30. If you’ve never heard of him that’s probably because much of his career was spent here. The New Testament is absolutely ransacked for subjects: Christ’s ministry, but also His parables and aphorisms. There are some clever formal parallels, such as Christ dragging His Cross mirroring Him riding a donkey on the other side of the vault, as well as the spectacular, where by looking up and spinning round, one can recreate “Woman, behold thy sonson behold thy mother“. All of Starmer’s paintings are a bizarre stylistic oddity: still with Victorian Arts and Crafts ambition and ornamental motifs, but infused with a proto-cinematic realism akin to Tissot’s Gospel Illustrations, yet still with the broad heroic gestures of history painting, with a whiff of the Art Deco. It’s a marvel it ever got finished."