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“…not only definitive when it comes to the art historical specifics, but also full of individual reflection and judgment. …it zooms in on the practicalities of the painters’ tasks and then steps back to consider their biographies and beyond them, the interplay of theology and aesthetics with ease, engagingly…. Altogether, this is a very, very satisfying book and beautifully produced.” Julian Bell (Artist – grandson of Quentin Bell) March 2017

Every purchase of this book goes towards supporting our campaign to save our nationally important artistic treasures for the future.

In the midst of the turmoil of the Second World War the Bloomsbury artists Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Quentin Bell were invited to decorate the interior of the small rural church of St Michael and All Angels, Berwick in the South Downs National Park, East Sussex. The resulting paintings and decorations are considered to be one of the most important decorative schemes in this country. Sir John Rothenstein, director of the Tate Gallery at the time, said of the paintings that ‘they must, I think, be accounted among the best paintings to be made in church or chapel in England during the present century’.

This book describes the story behind this remarkable commission. It also explores how the artists responded to the scriptural passages they were given and the way in which they related their work to the architecture of the church.

Peter Blee read Natural Sciences at St John’s College, Cambridge and after graduating, began a career in ecology, combining it with an interest in landscape design. He later trained as an Anglican priest at St Stephen’s House, Oxford. Following ordination he served as curate at St Nicolas, Guildford and then as Associate Minister at St Boniface, Exeter. In 2003 he was appointed Rector of St Michael and All Angels, Berwick together with the neighbouring churches of Alciston, Arlington, Selmeston and Wilmington.

Book Orders

Books cost £15 plus £3.50 p&p within the UK and can be ordered by email benefice.administrator@berwickchurch.org.uk 
All profits go towards the church. 

Alternatively they can be ordered from Much Ado Books, Alfriston and will also dispatch overseas. Muchadobooks.com

Reviews and Articles

  • Sussex Life magazine September 2017 – to see the article please click here.
  • Sussex Life magazine December 2016 – to see the article please click here.
  • Much Ado Books – to see the review please click here. The book can be purchased in the bookshop and at www.muchadobooks.com.

“Wow! I was expecting a Pitkin-type paperback pamphlet – and instead have received a really gorgeous, substantial hardback. The Church Times review (which led me here) doesn’t do the book sufficient justice!” SB May 2017

“I have enjoyed the book so much; it is very well written and such a perceptive and evocative account.”
AW June 2017

“…the book arrived today in first-class condition.  It is superb and will be both highly informative and very much enjoyed.” GP June 2017

“Even more may be gained, from Peter Blee’s scholarly, perceptive, and beautifully produced account of The Bloomsbury Group in Berwick Church. This will surely re-shape the reactions of those visitors who, even without Pevsner and Nairn’s damning verdict to hand (‘if one remembers Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell in their prime, how sad does it seem now, so conventional, so sentimental?’) may still experience Berwick’s decorative scheme as little more than an ill-judged, and superficial piece of late Bloomsbury ephemera. As Peter Blee (Berwick’s current incumbent) clearly, and scrupulously, documents, both Bishop Bell’s vision and determination that the Berwick murals should signal ‘the re-entry of the artist into the realm of religion’ (p.169) and also how the evident sincerity, creativity and professionalism with which Duncan and Vanessa – both avowed atheists – responded to the challenge.”

Graham Howes, Emeritus Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge in ‘Art and Christianity No.92 –  Winter 2017’ (The Quarterly Journal of Art and Christianity Enquiry (ACE )