Wells Cathedral Retrochoir makes a fascinating subject for linocut prints, with the marble columns supporting fan vaulted ceilings and the windows of the Lady Chapel seen through the columns. I’ve returned to this subject several times. It is a wonderfully complex pattern of columns and arching fan vaults, whatever angle you view it from.
First, some history. The Lady Chapel was built by master mason Thomas of Whitney and finished in 1326, for Bishop John Droxford. The windows are now filled with fragments of medieval glass. The extension of the Choir continued between 1329 and 1345, joining it to the Lady Chapel, with the retrochoir. (The word retrochoir simply means a space behind the choir, they are found in many cathedrals and had varying uses.)
It’s thought that the space was originally intended for a shrine, possibly related to the canonization of Bishop William of March but when this plan failed, they needed to fill in the extra space. Perhaps this allowed the masons more of a free hand to do what they wanted. They certainly used their skills to the full.
The first linocut print I made of the Retrochoir was a small monochrome design. It’s a simple design, and emphasises the pattern of lines created by the vaulted ceilings. The pillars are reminiscent of palm trees branching.
In the first of two colour prints of the Retrochoir, I wanted to emphasise the clear colours of the stone. In a reduction print the colour palette can be very much reduced, here it’s limited to three colours.
The second colour print of the retrochoir uses five colours. This slightly wider range of colours allows much better exploration of the light within the subject. Here I wanted to show the light coming in through the windows of the Lady Chapel. The mood changes when clouds pass over, and the stone is suddenly cast into darker, cooler shadows.