The Graham Sutherland Tapestry Design for Coventry Cathedral
Conservation of the Working Drawing
Sutherland’s large mixed media drawing was conserved in-situ, working below the enormous tapestry (the size of a tennis court) in Coventry cathedral in the winter of 2022.
Of utmost importance when working on anything of this nature, is to retain all aspects of its use by the tapestry weavers, such as graphite annotations and numbering, pin holes and other key elements required to copy and transfer detail for the large tapestry.
It is executed onto 2 sections of compact fibrous board and painted in gouache watercolour, body colour, charcoal, oils, and acrylic over a graphite under drawing. Additionally, there is other mixed media such as paper over-lays, textiles; ribbon and fragments of silk.
The two sections were poorly assembled with the join through the middle becoming wider and more damaged leading to delamination of the fibrous board and lifting/losses of pigment. The on-lays were also lifting and areas of textile becoming detached. The repairs were carried out by humidification to swell the fibres and allow access to the lamination layers, by applying adhesives through and applying weights until flattened. Other areas of loose textile and on-lays were treated similarly.
The fragmented pigments also required consolidation due to flaking and the final retouching was carried out using watercolours to tone.