B1336 Twelve Letters on a Grand Scale The Sainsbury Wing Inscriptions by Michael Harvey



Twelve Letters on a Grand Scale The Sainsbury Wing Inscriptions by Michael Harvey



Introduction to the book by the author:
Since 1955 I have been carving inscriptions in stone and slate, mostly gravestones and memorial plaques. In late 1989 I was invited to the National Gallery committee discussing the extension to the gallery by Robert Venturi. an American 'Post Modernist' architect, winner of the competition following the Prince of Wales' squashing of the design by a British architectural practice. But spending weeks in London carving lists of donors in situ, would be a tedious business.

At the meeting I learned that the Sainsbury family were financing the extension which would be called the Sainsbury Wing. Gallery director Neil MacGregor introduced me to Sir Simon Sainsbury, Robert Venturi and the committee. Venturi unfolded drawings, produced photographs of models and I began to grasp the scale of his vision. First, on a wall of French limestone to the left of a granite staircase opposite a wall of glass, was to be a carved frieze of names of painters of the early Renaissance. Visitors to the collection of these and other artists from that period would see the first name above their heads as they began to ascend the stairs, on reaching the top would find the last name at waist level. The length of the frieze would be some twenty-five metres, the vee-cut capitals half a metre high.

Facing the visitor at the top of the stairs, carved in the stone wall above the lift doors, was to be some uplifting statement about art, yet to be chosen. Here, as Venturi explained, he wanted the letters coloured in a poster like way, drawing visitors visually up the great flight of stairs and into the galleries. He was a rare architect to use letters as a positive addition to a building, noted for a gallery he had built in Seattle with its front decorated with large letters.

Back home in Dorset, I wondered what my options were if I took on such a grand commission. I could hire a compressor, pneumatically driven chisels, but this is a very noisy process and the vibrations would give me the shakes. Also using industrial methods seemed inappropriate in a building of this kind; handwork would be more in keeping on a structure employing the best materials and workmanship to house great works of art. I would need to assemble a team of helpers to do the work by hand, but where to find people who would not mind being directed? Visiting Robert Venturis office in Philadelphia with an American friend to discuss the inscriptions, she said, 'Why don't you ask Brenda Berman and Annet Sterling? They'd love to do the work.' Both had studied at the City and Guilds School of Art in London, so on my return we met and happily agreed to work together.

Booksellers comments:
This super little book covers the commission taken on by Michael Harvey together with Brenda Berman and Annet Stirling to create a hand cut frieze of the names of Artists from the early Renaissance era in a new gallery that was to be added to the British National Gallery. Interesting little book full of stunning letters. br>

1st edition, 2013, paperback, 50pp, full colour photographs and diagrams on most pages, 21 x 21cm

Twelve Letters on a Grand Scale The Sainsbury Wing Inscriptions by Michael Harvey
15.00 EUR 18.49