The Visitation

A commission for Liverpool Hope University College

St Katherine's Chapel is situated at the heart of Liverpool Hope University College's Hope Park campus. When built in 1930 it was planned that the deliberate austerity of the chapel would one day be enriched in colour and texture by a painting to be situated in the large arched space behind the altar. After 73 years this came to pass with the completion in July 2003 of a new work by Ghislaine Howard on the theme of The Visitation.

The Visitation Altarpiece
St Katharine's Chapel
The Visitation Altarpiece
St Katharine's Chapel

This painting brings together many of the concerns that recur throughout Howard's work. The meeting of the two women, one young and one older, both pregnant, is at once an intensely spiritual moment and a deeply human one.

Although monumental in scale, this is an intimate encounter. The intimacy of their meeting is expressed through hierarchical gesture. As the two women embrace, Elizabeth rests her hand on Mary’s side to feel the movement of the child.

The predella at the base of the painting is divided into three panels, the two outer images show Mary and the Archangel Gabriel at the moment of The Annunciation, whilst in the centre is the newly-born child.

The Visitation refers to the visit of the Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, who became the mother of John the Baptist. The meeting of the two women was the occasion for Mary to sing her great hymn of praise, The Magnificat.

Ghislaine spent six weeks working in St Katharine's Chapel, welcoming visitors who were interested in seeing the work develop.

Some of her sketches and studies for the altarpiece are reproduced below.

The Visitation Altarpiece was formally received on behalf of the College by the chair of governors, Sr Eileen Kelleher SND, on Tuesday, July 8, 2003.

Ghislaine has previously worked with Liverpool Hope University College to produce - as their millennium project - an exhibition of paintings and drawings taking as their subject the Stations of the Cross. These were most recently displayed in Gloucester Cathedral during Lent 2003 and viewed by the Queen on Maundy Thursday.

The Visitation - sketches and studies

Sketch for The Visitation
Acrylic on panel
40ins x 30ins
Sketch for The Visitation
Acrylic on panel
40ins x 30ins
Study for The Visitation
Pastel on paper
24ins x 20ins

Sketches for The Visitation


The Visitation - detail

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