Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Oil Painting 54 - The Divinity School, The Bodleian Library

I was getting the impression whilst producing the painting of the Radcliffe Camera and the view from the tower that I was still missing an important feature of the Oxford experience. A lot of the fascination of Oxford University is that it seems to be going on behind closed doors that the city just allows you glimpses of from the street. I wanted to get inside some of these majestic buildings I was staring at and the obvious place to start seemed to be the famous Bodleian Library.

After signing wavers stating I would pay for any damages caused (not stupid these Oxford University people) I was granted access to paint in the Divinity School section of the library.

Wikipedia can give you a more reliable account of the buildings historical importance -,_Oxford

Although I do know quite a bit since standing in there for two days and listening to numerous tours. This is a gothic masterpiece, and unusual because the plans were changed dramatically half way through the 15th century build. It was never intended to be a 'school' as such, more a room for examination of a students knowledge through aural debate, with students addressing their professor, fellow students and the general public from pulpits in the room. The subject being 'Divinity' which was the core subject in the 15th century with so much of education being linked to the church. 

So it was really a presentation room, all 'study' was happening in the neighbouring colleges and the university just stood as an examination body in the centre. Wealth came to the colleges from former students but not really to the university itself and so the build of this school was delayed over the course of the century due to lack of funds. The university were presented with a collection of some 245 manuscripts by the Duke Humphrey half way through and this is where the dramatic change to the design arrives. In order to house the manuscripts (extremely rare and valuable, often bejewelled) the university divided this space into two storeys instead of a single tall room. This has pushed an elaborate gothic ceiling down really close to the naked eye and gives the opportunity to really study the remarkable amount of decorative bosses.

It has also survived remarkable well, looking as though the 15th century stone masons could have left yesterday, The Reformation left a serious toll on religious architecture in the country with saint carvings and crucifixes being defaced, but only a handful of such vandalism occurred in this room. Upstairs, the now named Duke Humphrey's Library, suffered a different fate with only 4 of the 245 manuscripts surviving with piles of books being burnt in bonfires outside the library.

The library is still being used today and so is the Divinity School as a graduation ceremony location for Oxford University students along with the neighbouring Sheldonian theatre.

The other key point the tour guides would bring up when they could see heads dipping in the tour groups was ...

Harry Potter was filmed in here! *heads look up*
and in the Duke Humphrey's Library upstairs! I was painting the the actual Hogwarts.

How was it used?
Ron Weasley learned how to Waltz in this room, it was also the Infirmary in one of the first films. I was standing pretty close to Harry's hospital bed

I dont even like Harry Potter. I was more a Lord of the Rings fan, I think that is the Beatles vs The Stones of our generation.

Anyway, hope you like the painting, I am pleased with the injected colour into the naked stone, similar to what happened in Worcester Cathedral although this has a much warmer quality due mainly to two dull days outside that allowed the artificial light inside to light up the fluted stonework like fire. These gothic subjects are really linking well with my work at the moment and I am please with this discovered tangent to year of the boat.

Detail of Oil Painting 44 - Worcester Cathedral

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