Wells' Cathedral (Magnum Opus)

The Complete "Magnum Opus"
An original work by Matthew Grayson of
Wells Cathedral's "Magnum Opus" Upper Panel (2006)
 Wells Cathedral's "Magnum Opus" Lower Panel (2003)

Medium : Watercolour, Acrylic and Graphite on board

Original Painting Size Upper : width 660 mm x height 520 mm
Original Painting Size Lower : width 660 mm x height 330 mm

(Original finished work now held at the Guildhall in Wells) 
This unique completed work has no prints in existence

Click below for more information on each of the two panels :

The Magnum Opus comprises of an upper and lower panel. 

The upper panel is a painted impression of the west façade of Wells Cathedral, as it may have appeared in the first quarter of the fifteenth century.

The lower panel illumination was taken from the Lady Chapel tiled floor, whilst the Latin text featured is a gradual (plain chant No.5) by the baroque composer Gregorio Allegri.


Time Line :
2002 .......... 
A fine line cartoon was completed of the Upper Panel.
2003 .......... A watercolour/acrylic was completed of the Lower Panel.
2005 .......... A watercolour/acrylic was completed of the Upper Panel
2006 .......... Angels, golden sky and a border were completed on the Upper Panel.
2006 .......... The Upper and Lower Panels were then framed in a bespoke Italian frame.

Interpreting the Wells Cathedral "Magnum Opus" painting (upper panel) :

The construction of the painting concentrates on the overall geometry of the west front which comprises the three overlapping circles which intercept at nine specific points upon the main panel image and the double reflecting squares with the apostles.

The dimensions of the main panel were calculated by extending the main construction lines that cross through the centre of the painting.

By drawing a line from the top left corner of the Bubwith tower to the bottom right of the base of the buttress and the top right corner of the Stafford tower and bottom left base buttress it is discovered that the lines cross at the base of the two central guardian angels standing below St Andrew (patron saint of the cathedral).

This also gives the pattern of St Andrew's crossthe patron saint of Scotland.

Research in the colours has been carefully carried out, using as much historical and present information as possible.

One can calculate a specific pattern of colour by concentrating on the geometric construction and by using a law of averages.

The majority opaint was applied to the lower and central levels of the west facade.

No paint traces are recorded on either tower but utilising the concept of the geometry, it is plausible to assume some paint may have been applied to limited areas of either tower.

These include the four main buttresses and the tall niches set either side of the buttresses.

The belfries were constructed of wood, which may have been painted redgreen, blue and white to complement and balance the overall finished composition of the architecture.

The ground level shows how it appeared, before the west lawn was levelled off a few hundred years ago.

There is a definite incline from the far left of the level to the far right.

The central path was also removed, which originally had trees growing either side of the central path.

Recent research has discovered paint would have been applied to the main door, whichwould have utilised the form of the door's hinges as part of the composition.

It has been suggested that the hinges (shaped to form branches either side of the doors) were painted gold with green leaves and red berries sprouting from them.

Around the painted branches birds flew and picked berries.

The foundation of the panel painted doors would  most probably have been animal hideto act as a smooth ground to give a better finish.

The overall west front image has a sense of power and stature.

Keeping the dimensions of the vertical lines the same from the base of the west front to the top creates this.

By measuring the bottom of one of the buttresses and measuring the topit is discovered that there is no difference in dimensions.

The only lines that fail in the perspective rule are the outer wallswhich lean inwards.

This has created a much greater sense odepth and power to the imagewhich reflects the power of the church at the time.

The shadows that fall across the facade have been calculated by taking a photograph of the west front at 2.35 pm which reflects the concept on which the painting
'theme was based.

The foreshortening of the pavement to the front entrance can calculate the eye-line of where the viewer stood when the photograph was taken.

The artist
's father took the photograph and the calculations conclude that he is approximately five feet eleven inches tallwhich is correct.

The gold background on the main panel suggests the west front painting, as a vision created b
the artist.

The angels appear from the background from vaporising clouds that surround them (shown by a slightly darker gold).

The impression gives the spectator a sense of spiritual uplifting and relaxation.

The angels are carefully placed upon the geometry lines at angles that communicate with each other and also with the overall composition

The central angelbeing Charity, hovers over the spire surrounded by spiritual cloud formationgiving the feeling of continual generosity as well as funding for the cathedral,past and present.

To the left, Hope peers up at Charity.

The clouds that surround her are less significantgiving a sense that each angel has appeared at different occasions.

To the far right
Faithalso in a form of vaporising cloudbeams spiritual rays of light, delivering the Holy Spirit in the central part of the painting and onto the illuminated image of Christ in the central stained glass window.

The border that surrounds the painting is identical to the lower panel
taken from the Pugin-tiled Lady chapel floorreflecting the architectural theme of the painting's composition.

(c) Matthew Grayson 2002

Interpreting the Wells Cathedral "Magnum Opus" painting Lower Panel : 

The Illumination was taken from the Lady Chapel tiled floor, whilst the Latin text featured is a gradual (plain chant No.5) by the baroque composer 
Gregorio Allegri

The painting is currently on a four year tour and will return to the Bishops Palace at Wells in 2010.

The Latin text is from the Bible; from Psalm 107 verses 32 and 31 in the Old Testament and from Matthew chapter 16 verse 18 in the New Testament :

Ps 107:32 - Exaltent eum in ecclesia plebis et in cathedra seniorum laudent eum
Let them exalt him also in the church/congregation of the people, and praise him in the chair/assembly of the elders.

Ps 106:31 - Confiteantur Domino misericor diae eius et mirabilia eius filiis hominum
Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him, and his wonderful works to the children of men.

Alleluia (A shout or song of praise to God)

Matt 16:18 - Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam.
Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.

Alleluia (A shout or song of praise to God)

The lower panel has as much significance to the west front as the upper panelbut in a different form of imagery.

The dimensions of the lower panel are calculated using the same geometry pattern for the double reflected squares and the cover length of the main panel.

The two coats of arms are of Bubwith and Staffordboth 
13th century mediaeval bishops at the time the theme of the main panel paintingbased - approximately 1427-1445.

The angels below signify the development of the west front from the first few centuries of the cathedral's construction.

Central to either plinth which the angels kneela gold cross has been painted, to break the formation of white crosses among the border lines.

This signifies the belief in God and faith, past and present.

Hovering above the top-central point is the Holy Spirit with a small halopeering down onto the eye line of Stafford's angelgiving the sense of security within the cathedral.

Stafford's angel in return, looks straight into the eyes of the Holy Spirit.

The small images of Saint Peter and Saint Paul are painted either side of the plinth.

A wilderness scene (signifying organized chaos) and showing the west front of the cathedral in the year 1230, before Bubwith and Stafford carried out the significant construction work on the west frontas depicted in the main panel, complete the plinth's meaning.

To the bottom central panelthe Lamb of God is sited, emanating rays of hopeon a bed of lush grass and sacred flowers.

Stafford's angel's hand is pointing towards the Lamb of God continuing the"communicationof the painting's figures.

Bubwith's angelkneeling on a blank grey cold-looking stone, signifies the beginning of time and the first visions of building a cathedral in Wells.

Her handsholding a booknot only give the viewer the understanding of literacy and connection with the cathedral's librarybut also to the ever-open scope olearning from educationboth religious and general.

The eye line of the angel is directed back up to the Holy Spirit, completing the reading pattern of the painting. The reading pattern of these four groups, creates a diamond shape.

The latin text has been laid ouin a retro style of unjustified range left, but utilising old techniques of illumination, where the significance of a word or sentence is illuminated greater depending on the importance of the text content.

The geometrical square and coloured diamond formsat the end of each line of verse,signify the journey of life and the three stages of man.

The white perimeter relates to the Holy Spirit and heaven.

The blue relate to the seas.

The greento land and life.

The red to the blood of Christ and the black to death and the afterlife.

By reading the pattern's Hebrew style (from right to left) you will discover three set rotational patterns which revolve clockwise (signifying the passage of time) and giving the three ages of man

The border is almost identical in colour to the Lady Chapel floor, apart from the central leaf pattern which the artist has decided to paint pure white, to compliment the west front'swhite ground walls.

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