David Gentleman

1930

Wood engraving for Charing Cross underground station (SOLD)

Medium
Wood engraving
Dimensions
14.5 x 21.9 cm
Year
1978
Description
David Gentleman remembers the Charing Cross commission:

It arrived quite unexpectedly, with a call from Michael Levy, London Transport’s publicity chief. The brief was simply to design a mural for an Underground station that would relate somehow to the station’s name, Charing Cross. There was no interference from design management, then a newly arrived and suspect discipline, to complicate the task. The platform-length mural would be made up of about sixty separate melamine panels and designed around the station name and logo wherever they appeared, the wooden benches (since sadly replaced) below them, various letter-boxes and rubbish bins, and the entry and exit openings along the platforms. I began
by laying all these out on a blank sheet and drawing even my very earliest roughs over them, and quickly thought of using the spaces between the openings as if they were panels in a medieval book of hours or a comic strip, to show how the original Eleanor Cross, after which Charing Cross is named, had been built.

The medieval characters were the same size as the platforms’ passengers and would stand beside them or roll their wheelbarrows onto the same wooden benches. My references were from illustrations in medieval manuscripts of building methods and early cranes, barrows, scaffolding and stonemasons. I photographed these and made a card index of them. But in Westminster Abbey, then being restored, it was strange to find today’s stonemasons using exactly the same templates, tools and ways of working as their medieval predecessors. It was a wonderful task.

(extract from David Gentleman, 'My Town', Penguin Books, 2020, p.34)