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My ART SALE reaches Munich

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Sunken Cathedral. Oil on Canvas. Stephen Riley
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My Art Sale continues and I am pleased to report that a client in Munich has bought this painting, which will be winging its way southward to Bavaria later this week.

This is one of a series of works that were inspired by a Debussy prelude called, variously, ‘The Sunken Cathedral’, ‘The Deluged Cathedral’ etc., from the French 'La Cathédrale Engloutie'. Actually, although it was Debussy’s composition, the version I was first drawn to was Stokowski’s transcription, with its powerful orchestral sound and ominous bells.

The music and painting are based on a French fable about a cathedral which exists underwater in the depths of the sea but occasionally groans mysteriously and majestically to the surface, all bells ringing, before sinking back into dark, watery oblivion.

Living, as I do, near the Pennines, I found particular resonance with this tale as, early in the twentieth century, various moorland villages were submerged under reservoirs, when dams were built to provide water for the industrial towns and cities of the North. One of the drowned villages, Derwent, had a church whose spire would appear whenever the water level got low enough. The tower was eventually demolished, but I always found the thought of it and the idea of the houses, still there under the murky, peaty Pennine water, both fascinating and creepy.

The painting is in oil on canvas, and I used a technique where a white ground was used to create luminosity through a thinly mixed, translucent, oily paint. It is quite an old technique and has more to do with Turner's methods than, say, those of the Impressionists, who tended to use thick, opaque paint and create light by mixing white into the colours.

Although one might normally think of a cathedral as vast and mighty, I have imagined it here as lost in the overwhelming depths of the sea.