Public Art, Civic Architecture, and the Post-War Reconstruction of Coventry
4 December 2021 11.00am – 12.00pm
16.08.2019 / 16.08.2021
“We have to refound art on community service as the well-doing of what needs doing.”
– W.R. Lethaby: ‘The Town Itself / A Garden City is a Town’, 1921
#31.01.2021 (W.R. Lethaby)
#25.01.2021 (Sukṛta | WELL-DOING/WELL-MAKING)
Shukrita / Sukṛta is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms su and kṛta (कृत).
1) done well or properly.
2) thoroughly done; कच्चिन्नु सुकृतान्येव कृतरूपाणि वा पुनः । विदुस्ते सर्वकार्याणि (kaccinnu sukṛtānyeva kṛtarūpāṇi vā punaḥ | viduste sarvakāryāṇi) Rām.2.1.2.
3) well made or constructed.
4) treated with kindness, assisted, befriended.
5) virtuous, righteous, pious.
6) lucky, fortunate. (-tam)
1) any good or virtuous act, kindness, favour, service; नादत्ते कस्यचित् पापं न चैव सुकृतं विभुः (nādatte kasyacit pāpaṃ na caiva sukṛtaṃ vibhuḥ) Bg.5.15; Me.17.
2) virtue, moral or religious merit; स्वर्गाभिसंधिसुकृतं वञ्चनामिव मेनिरे (svargābhisaṃdhisukṛtaṃ vañcanāmiva menire) Ku.6.47; तच्चिन्त्यमानं सुकृतं तवेति (taccintyamānaṃ sukṛtaṃ taveti) R.14.16.
3) fortune, auspiciousness.
4) recompense, reward.
5) Penance; तदभूरिवासरकृतं सुकृतैरुप- लभ्य वैभवमनन्यभवम् (tadabhūrivāsarakṛtaṃ sukṛtairupa- labhya vaibhavamananyabhavam) Ki.6.29.
(-taḥ-tā-taṃ) 1. Virtuous, pious. 2. Befriended, assisted, treated with kindness. 3. Fortunate, auspicious. 4. Done well, properly, ably, &c. n.
(-taṃ) 1. Virtue, moral merit. 2. Fortune, auspiciousness. 3. Kindness, bounty, friendly aid or assistance. 4. Any kind or friendly act. 5. Reward, recompense, especially heaven as the reward of virtue. E. su well, and kṛta made or done.
[Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Cappeller Sanskrit-English Dictionary]
Śūkṛta (शूकृत).—[neuter] = [preceding]; [adjective] scared, urged on.
— OR —
Sukṛta (सुकृत).—1. [neuter] a good deed, virtue, (moral) merit; kindness, favour, service.
— OR —
Sukṛta (सुकृत).—2. [adjective] well made or done, good, right, fair.
[Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary]
1) Śūkṛta (शूकृत):—[=śū-kṛta] [from śū] mfn. (śū-) startled by the sound śū, [ib.]
2) [v.s. …] urging, spurring (of a horse), [Ṛg-veda]
3) Sukṛta (सुकृत):—[=su-kṛta] [from su] n. a good or righteous deed, meritorious act, virtue, moral merit (-tas ind.), [Ṛg-veda] etc. etc.
4) [v.s. …] a benefit, bounty, friendly aid, favour, [Rāmāyaṇa; Pañcatantra] etc.
5) [v.s. …] the world of virtue, heaven, [Atharva-veda; Taittirīya-saṃhitā; Taittirīya-brāhmaṇa]
6) [v.s. …] fortune, auspiciousness, [Horace H. Wilson]
7) [v.s. …] reward, recompense, [ib.]
8) [from su-kṛta > su] mfn. well done or made or formed or executed, [Ṛg-veda]
9) [v.s. …] [from su] well arranged, adorned, made good (with mati f. ‘a well-taken resolution’; with anartha m. ‘an evil turned to good’; kim atra sukṛtam bhavet, ‘what would be best done here?’), [Ṛg-veda] etc. etc.
10) [v.s. …] treated with kindness, befriended, [Monier-Williams’ Sanskrit-English Dictionary]
11) [v.s. …] well-conducted, virtuous, fortunate, [ib.]
12) [v.s. …] mfn. (said to be) = svak, [Taittirīya-upaniṣad]
13) [v.s. …] m. Name of a Prajā-pati, [Viṣṇu-purāṇa]
14) [v.s. …] of a son of Pṛthu, [Harivaṃśa]
15) Sukṛtā (सुकृता):—[=su-kṛtā] [from su-kṛta > su] f. Name of a river, [Viṣṇu-purāṇa]
#18.01.2021 (W.R. Lethaby)
…but all along I said I have been interested in things [underlined] and makings [underlined] & it was apparent to me that the modern English university ideal has come to be a matter of words & bluff. They claim, claim, claim, but what do they do?
– W.R. Lethaby undated letter to Sydney Gimson
#05.02.2019 (John Berger, 1973)
Now I have been forced to place myself historically. In a period of revolutionary expectation, I saw a work of art which had survived as evidence of the past’s despair; in a period which has to be endured, I see the same work miraculously offering a narrow pass across despair.
#11.02.2020 (W.R. Lethaby)
“Coventry could become before long a collective work of art. This observation was made by Mr. R. Gardner-Medwin, an authority on civic design, when he gave a lecture this week at the Coventry of To-morrow Exhibition…”
– Coventry Herald, 11 May 1940
#10.02.2020 (W.R. Lethaby)
PJ-M: I must confess that my enthusiasm for Lethaby only developed after I had left the [Liverpool School of Architecture], and I had, in fact, been working as a young architect for two or three years. To some extent, Lethaby demands some maturity, he was not just another teacher. But I think he was a wise man, and of course he understood brilliantly the link between the builders, the architects, the people, and the nature of the building required. A humanist of the finest kind.
#09.02.2020 (W.R. Lethaby, 1923)
17  / Work is a sacred thing and I have wished above all to stir the instinct for making and doing. Work is the great reality, beauty is the great aim. Full satisfaction is only to be found in the common beauty of common things of the common life.
18  / Art is intelligence, interest and skill manifested in all we make and do and I believe that something of great value to everybody may be suggested by the idea of art. All right and reasonable work is a compound of body and soul. If work is without art it is mere toil, drudgery and slavery; skill, the sense of service and pride in the doing, will fill it with a new spirit. Art is drudgery made divine. We have to make beauty out of all that we do.
48  / Making things opens out minds.
#08.02.2020 (W.R. Lethaby, 1923)
#02.02.2020 (W.R. Lethaby, 1913)
“We cannot go back”—true; and it is as true that we cannot stay where we are.
#10.01.2020 (Perriand & Leger | FLV, Paris)
Though unstatic, they call for contemplation. Mute, they speak from the wall.
– Peter de Francia: ‘Léger’s ‘The Great Parade’, Cassell, 1969
#24.11.2019 (EJ, Design for an Alphabet)
#15.10.2019 (Plan général de l’Exposition, 1937 | L’Illustration)
#09.09.2019 (W.R. Lethaby | Colin Ward)
#01.09.2019 (W.R. Lethaby)
#24.08.2019 (John Ruskin, ‘workman’)
The third kind of ornament, the Renaissance, is that in which the inferior detail becomes principal, the executor of every minor portion being required to exhibit skill and possess knowledge as great as that which is possessed by the master of the design; and in the endeavour to endow him with this skill and knowledge, his own original power is overwhelmed, and the whole building becomes a wearisome exhibition of well-educated imbecility.
– John Ruskin: ‘The Nature of Gothic’, 1853
#18.08.2019 (W.R. Lethaby, notes)
#16.08.2019 (W.R. Lethaby, text)
#27.07.2019 (W.R. Lethaby, 1920)
imbecile play-acting…destroys rational growth | efficiency…in place of this trivial, sketchy picturesque
– W.R. Lethaby: ‘Housing and Furnishing’, 1920
#27.07.2019 (W.R. Lethaby to Harry Peach, 1921)
“…art equals work: worthy art equal worthy work, high quality art equals high quality work.”
#21.07.2019 (W.R. Lethaby, 1913)
#12.07.2019 (X | Dylan Thomas, 1944)
In the cauldron
Of the sun
#12.07.2019 (Braxton Hicks | Dylan Thomas, 1944)
#11.07.2019 (W.R. Lethaby, 1891)
…the Architecture which is the synthesis of the fine arts, the commune of all the crafts.
#05.07.2019 (May 1940)
#27.06.2019 (France 1937 SG#669 Paris Int. Exhibition #D93109)
#21.06.2019 (Vernieling en Wederopbouw, Oostende)
#15.06.2019 (Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 1989)
#15.06.2019 (Léger, 1954)
#15.06.2019 (Apollinaire, 1914/1918)
PDF: Reading Apollinaire
#08.06.2019 (Gill, 1929)
#30.05.2019 (Lethaby Article)
#28.05.2019 (Lethaby, 1921)
We have to refound art on community service as the well-doing of what needs doing.
– W. R. Lethaby: ‘The Town Itself / A Garden City is a Town’, 1921
#27.05.2019 (Unwin, 1909)
Professor Lethaby has well said, “Art is the well-doing of what needs doing.” We have in a certain niggardly way done what needed doing, but much that we have done has lacked the insight of imagination and the generosity of treatment which would have constituted the work well done; and it is from this well-doing that beauty springs.
– Raymond Unwin: ‘Town Planning In Practice’, 1909
Sixth of a set of 6 sketch books by Charles Paget Wade. Donated by Richard Lupinacci, a resident of St. Kitts. . . . The book is landscape format, covered in brown textile, with insect damage. Bookworm holes throughout. [NT/object/1342704.6]
Wavy road verges, hollyhocks and topiary, tea-cosy cottages, black cumuli of elm, white cumuli of cloud . . . were all good for a laugh in left-wing circles, within which it was plain that the Empire and the landscape that had been created simultaneously in the eighteenth century were going to disintegrate simultaneously in the twentieth.
– Viscount Esher: ‘A Broken Wave: the Rebuilding of England, 1940-1980’, Allen Lane, 1981
PDF: Esher | Lethaby
#26.05.2019 (Esher, 1981)
History nevertheless shows that political disasters do not tarnish a period’s cultural image. . . . Writing in 1938 [during “the years of Leon Blum’s short-lived Popular Front, the only intellectually respectable response to the terror ahead”], R. H. Wilenski recorded the ages of the leading figures in the Ecole de Paris: ‘Bonnard and Vuillard are seventy-one, Matisse is sixty-nine, Rouault is sixty-seven, Vlaminck is sixty-three, Dufy, Picabia and Friesz are fifty-nine, Derain is fifty-eight. Picasso and Leger are fifty-seven, Braque is fifty-six, Utrillo, Metzinger and Severini are fifty-five, Segonzac is fifty-four, Ozenfant is fifty-two, Chagall is fifty-one. Chirico is fifty, Ernst is forty seven, Lurqat is forty-six, Miro is forty-five, Masson is forty-three. Tchelitchew is forty and Dali is thirty-four.’ Such a constellation would not be seen again in our time. But the artists and philosophers, the designers and decorators, the whole ‘intellectual’ resistance to fascism, turned out to have no roots in French society, which was deeply cynical and defeatist.
– Viscount Esher: ‘A Broken Wave: the Rebuilding of England, 1940-1980’, Allen Lane, 1981
#24.05.2019 (Lethaby | Brockhampton, 1902)
#22.05.2019 (Edward Johnston, 1906/1946)
Generally / Regarding / Endeavouring / The commercial prospects of the student of Writing & Illuminating – or, indeed, of any Art or Craft – are somewhat problematical, depending largely on his efficiency & opportunities. / Although the demand for good work is at present limited…
could not be ‘spared’.
#18.05.2019 (Lethaby, 1913)
PDF: Lethaby | Coventry
PDF: Book Obituaries #1
#05.05.2019 (Esher | Lethaby)
#01.05.2019 (Lethaby | Esher)
[…beautifully hand-written by Edward Johnston…]
Culture should be thought of as not only book-learning, but as a tempered human spirit. A shepherd, ship-skipper or carpenter enjoys a different culture from the book-scholar, but it is nonetheless a true culture.
– W.R. Lethaby, Art Workers’ Guild, 18 January 1922
#01.05.2019 (La Femme en Blue, 1914)
#23.04.2019 (ars bene videndi / the art of the skilled gaze)
Proper ornamentation may be defined as a language addressed to the eye; it is pleasant thought expressed in the speech of the tool.
…the eye would become so accustomed to good proportion in these simple and obvious things that it would insist on a similar gratification in more complex and difficult matters.
– Edward Johnston: ‘Writing & Illuminating & Lettering’, 1906 (1946)
#21.04.2019 (A. K. Coomaraswamy | A Figure of Speech, or a Figure of Thought?, 1946 (1972)
It has sometimes been asked whether the “artist” can survive under modern conditions. In the sense in which the word is used by those who ask the question, one does not see how he can or why he should survive. For, just as the modern artist is neither a useful or significant, but only an ornamental member of society, so the modern workman is nothing but a useful member and is neither significant nor ornamental. It is certain we shall have to go on working, but not so certain that we could not live, and handsomely, without the exhibitionists of our studios, galleries, and playing fields. We cannot do without art, because art is the knowledge of how things ought to be made, art is the principle of manufacture (recta ratio factibilium), and while an artless play may be innocent, an artless manufacture is merely brutish labor and a sin against the wholesomeness of human nature; we can do without “fine” artists, whose art does not “apply” to anything, and whose organized manufacture of art in studios is the inverse of the laborer’s artless manufacture in factories; and we ought to be able to do without the base mechanics “whose souls are bowed and mutilated by their vulgar occupations even as their bodies are marred by their mechanical arts.”
…it would seem to be a mockery to speak of a society as “free” where it is only the makers of useless things who are supposedly free.
#20.04.2019 (W.R. Lethaby)
Labour, work, art really make up what should be one body of human service, but ‘fine art’ has been trained to turn round and revile the rest for not being ‘aesthetic’ – whatever that may be.
PDF: Lethaby | Notes 1984
#07.04.2019 (W.R. Lethaby, 1892)
Old architecture lived because it had a purpose. Modern architecture, to be real, must not be a mere envelope without contents.
PDF: Lethaby | Art 1892
94. Private interests should be subordinated to the interests of the community.
– IV International Congress for Modern Architecture | Charter of Athens, 1933
#03.02.2019 (Charlotte Perriand)
“And it turned out the walls of my studio were also the walls of his.”
Et ma blanche colombe qui chante jour et nuit.
… qu’il fait bon, fait bon, fait bon,
… qu’il fait bon dormir.
#01.02.2019 (Le Corbusier 1958)
PDF: Deutscher Werkbund
The need for public art not as superabundance of luxury, but as an absolutely necessary part of the ordinary life of people in communities, has really become for us a very pressing question, and I want to impress it on your minds by repetition.
– W. R. Lethaby: ‘Form in Civilization’, 1922
#26.01.2019 (studio copy 1978)
#26.01.2019 (Leger 1946, studio copy 1978)
#26.01.2019 (Worcester County Town 1946)
#25.01.2019 (Percy Johnson-Marshall)
1900, by Lethaby and Ball for the Eagle Insurance Company. Stone with a little brick. Four storeys; 5 bays. Ground floor with a large 5-light mullioned and transomed window and symmetrical doorways left and right with simple 2-light windows and sculptured plaques above. First, second and third floors each with uniform sash windows between pilasters. The 3rd floor windows with a frieze of Romansque derivation in their heads and alternating semi-circular and triangular pediments above. Attic storey with chequer work pattern in which are set plain blank discs and, centrally, an eagle. Original metal doors and much of the interior furnishings and fittings remain.
PDF: W. R. Lethaby | 1913
PDF: W. R. Lethaby | 1922
#23.01.2019 (Percy Johnson-Marshall)
#22.01.2019 (Percy Johnson-Marshall)
#22.01.2019 (Town and Country Planning Act 1932 / Section 1)
A scheme may be made under this Act with respect to any land, whether there are or are not buildings thereon, with the general object of controlling the development of the land comprised in the area to which the scheme applies, of securing proper sanitary conditions, amenity and convenience, and of preserving existing buildings or other objects of architectural, historic or artistic interest and places of natural interest or beauty, and generally of protecting existing amenities whether in urban or rural portions of the area.
#21.01.2019 (Moholy-Nagy & Coomaraswamy)
#20.01.2019 (Percy Johnson-Marshall)
#18.01.2019 (A.J. Penty 1914)
#16.01.2019 (29 July 1936)
“…to cause to be made only those things which are good to be made, which need making.”
#15.01.2019 (Dylan Thomas, 1944)
#15.01.2019 (Geddes 1944)
#12.01.2019 (Le Corbusier)
#11.01.2019 (J.H. Cousins)
#10.01.2019 (Geddes 1915)
Link: Working Space
PDF: LA DOUCE
#13.12.2018 (studio copy 1978)
PDF: LA DOUCE #4
#27.10.2018 (Berlin Notes)
[HKW]…the contours of language within image. …the indefinitely expressive failure of words to master images and perception. But the power of the letter-shapes is the capacity they produce to read images and to watch reading. / …he/she is either me or you (‘je’/’tu’) / …the words he finds remain creatively as imaged as any pre-verbal, pre-expressed, yet processed perception.
– Timothy Mathews: ‘Reading Apollinaire: Theories of Poetic Language’, 1987
#16.07.2018 (Berlin Notes)
#08.11.2015 (Art Workmen)
LINK: Architectural Museum
#05.06.2015 (William Forsyth)
It is possible that the elaboration of a visual language tough enough to be used as the basis of a style may be the essential problem confronting artists of the next decades. If this could be accomplished we could start thinking of a society emerging which would be, to borrow a phrase of Leger’s, a ‘luminous one’. The alternatives seem to me to be remarkably bleak and we desperately need that luminosity.
– Peter de Francia: ‘Mandarins and Luddites’, RCA Inaugural Lecture, 1973
This road is dominated by that desire for perfection and total liberation which produces saints, madmen and heroes. … The rarefied nature of its artistic formula makes it extremely vulnerable. It is a light, luminous and delicate structure, coldly emerging from the surrounding chaos.
– Fernand Leger: ‘De l’art abstrait’, 1931
PDF: …rarefied nature
Eric Gill | Coventry Evening Telegraph
… MODERN ART AND ECONOMICS Mr. Eric Gill’s Lecture in Coventry Striking observations on the relationship of Art to our present economic system were made by Mr. Eric Gill, well known sculptor, in a talk at St. Mary’s Hall, Coventry, last night. He was addressing …
Published: Friday 11 November 1938
CARVING PANEL FOR COVENTRY HOSPITAL.— Mr. Eric Gill, the well-known sculptor, at work on one of the two panels which he is carving for the extension buildings of the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital. …
Published: Saturday 12 November 1938