Cathedral partners with The National Gallery for virtual exhibition
In partnership with the National Gallery and museums throughout the UK, Canterbury Cathedral will join a new virtual exhibition and in-person collection trail exploring sacred art and its relation to today’s world, which opens on 5 December.
Fruits of the Spirit: Art from the Heart, 5 December 2022 – 30 April 2023
Fruits of the Spirit: Art from the Heart pairs nine pictures from the National Gallery’s collection with nine from partner institutions, including the Cathedral. The exhibition is inspired by Saint Paul’s description of themes including love, joy, and peace in the Christian Bible. Canterbury Cathedral’s altarpiece, Scenes from the Life of Saint Martin of Tours, 1928–33, by Winifred Knights, is paired with Claude Monet’s Water-Lilies from the National Gallery’s collection.
The altarpiece by Knights is a powerful example of religious art by a British woman of the last century. The painting represents ‘peace’. A young woman who arrived in Kent as a refugee reflected on the painting in relation to this theme and identified a strong connection between the altarpiece and her story of family, uncertainty, and courage. Similarly, Monet described his work, painted during the First World War, as a ‘monument to peace’. In her catalogue essay, Revd Dr Ayla Lepine argues that contemplating sacred and secular art and relating it to people’s lives today can inspire us all to work for peace when it is most urgently needed around the world.
This free virtual exhibition also includes paintings by Jan Van Eyck, Vincent van Gogh, Frank Auerbach, Turner, Titian, Ernst Neuschul, Eugène Delacroix, Ron Stenberg, Orazio Gentileschi, Andrea Soldi and Thomas Gainsborough, paired with works from institutions including The McManus Art Gallery & Museum in Dundee, The Box in Plymouth, and Southampton City Art Gallery. The virtual nature of this exhibition has made it uniquely possible to bring together paintings from these far-ranging institutions into a single accessible space.
The virtual exhibition is combined with a free digital catalogue of essays. Over twenty authors, including curators, artists and community groups, as well as a new poetry commission by Dr Aviva Dautch, explore the importance of the exhibition’s themes, from love and family life to self-control in relation to climate change. Including words from a Nurse-in-Residence, a care-experienced young person and social justice charities, these essays aim to bring voices not normally heard in gallery catalogues to the fore. Creating links between paintings within and beyond the National Gallery and fostering interactions through different perspectives in communities and cultures encourage new ways of seeing and more open ways of engaging with one another. As a digital exhibition, Fruits of the Spirit is freely accessible to both new and regular visitors from the UK and beyond.
This virtual exhibition is co-curated by the National Gallery’s 2021–22 Howard and Roberta Ahmanson Fellow Revd Dr Ayla Lepine and Senior Research Curator Dr Susanna Avery-Quash, who leads the Gallery's Art and Religion research strand. This exhibition will be accompanied by a series of events held at the National Gallery and at partner locations across Britain throughout the exhibition period.
Revd Dr Ayla Lepine, 2021–22 Ahmanson Fellow in Art and Religion at the National Gallery, says: ’It is a true joy to bring together diverse works of art from around the UK into new dialogues with the National Gallery’s stellar collection. The digital exhibition’s 18 paintings range across half a century of art history, from Van Eyck’s revered and enigmatic Arnolfini Portrait to the contemporary artist Lizzie Jones’ Couple, a moving image of two people who have survived a traumatic civil war. I am proud to have worked alongside some of the UK’s most exciting public collections to explore new connections between sacred art and our world today, creating a collaborative, free, and dynamic exhibition for everyone to enjoy. I hope that projects like these, supported by the National Gallery’s Ahmanson programme in art and religion, can encourage us all to open our museum collections to the widest possible audiences, and to build communities that are sources of love, peace, and kindness for all.’
Lawrence Chiles, Head of Digital at the National Gallery, says: ‘We continue to explore the possibilities now open to us to create digital exhibition experiences. The Fruits of the Spirit virtual exhibition has allowed us to bring together paintings from institutions from across the UK that would have been difficult to do physically, and in a more dynamic way than a straightforward website. Online visitors can get a better sense of scale and relationship between the works and hopefully continue the thoughtful dialogue that the overall project has inspired.'
Online visitors can get a better sense of scale and relationship between the works and hopefully continue the thoughtful dialogue that the overall project has inspired.'
Fruits of the Spirit: Art from the Heart is supported by Howard and Roberta Ahmanson
Digital activity at the National Gallery is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies Digital Accelerator
Claude Monet (1840–1926)
Water-Lilies, after 1916
Oil on canvas
200.7 × 426.7 cm
The National Gallery, London
Winifred Knights (1899 –1947)
Scenes from the Life of Saint Martin of Tours, c.1928–33
oil (or possibly tempera) on canvas with glazing
73 x 159.7 cm
Milner Memorial Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral. © The Estate of Winifred Knights