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Frederic Shields’s Chapel of the Ascension

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A Victorian Pathway to Paradise

image of Religion and the Arts

In 1889 the Pre-Raphaelite artist Frederic Shields (1833–1911) received a commission to paint the walls of a chapel in London. The patron, Emelia Gurney (1823–1896), was a devout Christian who envisaged a non-denominational place of worship and reflection, a place of refuge from the accelerated pace of the industrial age. The building, located just off Hyde Park in the Bayswater section of London, was designed by the architect Herbert Horne (1864–1916) and was based on Italian quattrocento ecclesiastical design. The interior walls were covered in a rich iconographical program conceived jointly by patron and artist. The pictorial narrative, painted in high Renaissance style, emphasized the theme of salvation and can be understood as a direct response to the fragmentation of religious practice and belief taking place in Britain at the time. This article is an investigation of the Chapel’s painted pedagogy. Completed in 1910, the building was bombed during the Blitz and is no longer standing.

Affiliations: 1: Delaware Art Museum


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