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Coventry's rich art heritage - yes, really!

March 27, 2020

20 things you (probably) didn't know about the city's links to art

  • A stained-glass image of a blonde-haired woman, discovered during recent archaeological excavations in the ruins of Coventry’s first cathedral, is thought to be a 12th century representation of Godiva.

  •  An elephant and a castle first appear as features on Coventry’s crest of arms around 1220.

  •  Coventry-born John Thornton, designer of the Great East Window in York Minster, learned his craft as part of a school of glass painters in the city in the 14 th century.

  •  The Coventry Doom, painted by unknown artists on the chancel arch in Holy Trinity Church around 1435, is regarded as one of the great treasures of medieval wall painting.

  •  A tapestry of Henry VI and his wife Margaret of Anjou in St Mary’s Hall still hangs on the wall for which it was made around 1510.

  •  Joseph Paxton, designer of the Crystal Palace, laid out Coventry’s new municipal cemetery in 1845 and was later Liberal MP for the city for more than a decade.

  •  Coventry art metal worker Francis Skidmore designed

     and made much of the decorative metal work for the Albert Memorial, Queen Victoria’s 1872 tribute to her dead husband.

  •  The architect Frederick Gibberd, designer of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, Harlow New Town and London’s Central Mosque, was born in Coventry in 1908.

  •  In1938, Coventry became one of the first cities in the country to employ a city architect. Donald Gibson went on to design Europe’s first traffic-free city centre.

  •  Coventry’s striking Godiva statue, designed by William Reid-Dick and unveiled in 1949, is one of the few equestrian statues outside London to be listed.

  •  Sir Basil Spence, the architect chosen to design Coventry’s post-war cathedral, had dreamed of designing a cathedral since childhood.

  •  Jacob Epstein’s bronze sculpture St Michael and the Devil, commissioned for the new cathedral, was the artist’s final major work.

  •  Another celebrated commission, Graham Sutherland’s monumental tapestry Christ in Glory, was the largest in the world when it was completed.

  •  The first Art Director of Coventry’s new Herbert Art Gallery and museum in 1957 was the Ulster poet John Hewitt, who stayed until his retirement in 1972.

  •  The Art and Language group, important in the development of conceptual art in the UK, emerged from Coventry School of Art in the late 1960s.

  •  In 1968 John Lennon and Yoko Ono submitted an art work to an exhibition of sculpture at Coventry Cathedral. It was their first peace activity together.

  •  The landscapes of the Tile Hill estate on which he grew up dominate the work of the painter George Shaw, born in Coventry in 1966 and recently a Turner prize nominee.

  •  The art work for Coventry’s Millennium project, The Phoenix Initiative, includes pieces by international artists Jochen Gerz, Francoise Schein and Susannah Heron.

  •  A statue of Coventry-born jet pioneer Frank Whittle, by sculptor Faith Winter, was unveiled in the city on June 1, 2007, the centenary of his birth.

  •  Coventry canal art trail, which incorporates around 30 works of art in more than five miles of towpath, is the longest trail of its kind in the country.

Pictured: Post-war Coventry - The city was one of the first in the councty to have a city architect; the Doom painting in Holy Trinity Church in the city centre, which dates from the 15th century.

 

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