Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Keble College Chapel

Keble College Chapel, designed by William Butterfield in the highest of High Victorian taste, opened in 1876, financed by a donor who made his fortune in the guano trade. Architecture guru Nikolaus Pevsner wrote about it in the 1950s – "this is not beautiful, in fact it is actively ugly. Younger scholars have recently denied that, but in the face of what is happening in architecture at the moment it is difficult not to believe that ugliness can be an ideal."

My daughter spent a year in Oxford studying at Keble in the early 1990s and I visited her there when the spring term ended. Happening on these photos of Keble's monstrous chapel gave me a singular jolt of nostalgia. Image source is here.

Interior walls are covered with these Crayola-colored mosaics. Poor weeping little Joseph – about to be abandoned by his hard-hearted brothers. The artist has given him an octagonal halo as solid as a stop-sign.