CARL LAUBIN: Metiendo Vivendum - a Tribute to Sir Edwin Lutyens

16 July - 9 August 2014

Metiendo Vivendum (By Measure We Live), A Tribute to Sir Edwin Lutyens is the main work of this exhibition by Plus One Gallery artist Carl Laubin and his latest capriccio.

The painting is a celebration of the architecture of Sir Edwin Lutyens, described as “the greatest British architect since Wren”, on the seventieth anniversary of his death and on the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War which Lutyens movingly commemorated in numerous memorials on the Somme, in Britain and around the world.

The painting has been three years in the making, the idea first occurring to Laubin during a chance visit to Castle Drogo in Devon, as he was returning home from a trip to Cornwall. Casual trips to see country houses soon turned into more organized methodical outings as the sheer volume of Lutyens’s output became apparent. As many buildings as it was possible to see were visited and drawn up individually and drawings were found for unbuilt works. Houses it was not possible to visit were researched and whatever drawings and photographs were available were redrawn to a consistent level of detail.

Comparison of these drawings led to the realization that there was an enormous disparity in scale between Lutyens’s domestic architecture and his great unbuilt masterpiece, Liverpool Cathedral, and the decision for the capriccio was made to depict all the buildings at the same scale of 1:200 rather than in perspective, so that their relative sizes could be compared.

This made it clear just how large his projected Liverpool Cathedral would have been had it been completed. At the Museum of Liverpool, we are fortunate to have Lutyens’s wonderful model of the Cathedral which gives an incomparable understanding of the building’s form and appearance; but the painting gives the building’s scale a context by surrounding it with more familiarly scaled domestic and urban buildings. Liverpool Cathedral would have been the second largest cathedral in the world after St. Peters Basilica in Vatican City. A church like Palladio’s San Giorgio in Venice would be the width of the central entrance arch with its two flanking piers, and as John Summerson pointed out in an essay on the Cathedral, many of Wren’s larger City churches such as St Mary-le-Bow would be roughly the same size as each of the two projected internal chapels which would have been located behind the sanctuary of the main Cathedral nave.

The importance of scale to the composition of the painting led to the adoption of Lutyens’s own motto, Metiendo Vivendum (By Measure We Live) as the title of the painting, with the subtitle A Tribute to Sir Edwin Lutyens referring to C. R. Cockerell's famous painting of the work of Lutyens's great hero Wren, A Tribute to Sir Christopher Wren.

Other works in the exhibition were completed during the same period of time as Metiendo Vivendum and include smaller studies of individual Lutyens buildings and gardens as well as paintings detaching from work at Castle Howard and for the Driehaus Prize; there are some sourced from the initial trip to Cornwall that led to visiting Drogo; and further works referencing an escape from the grip of Lutyens to the San Juan Islands in Washington State.