Case Study: Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of War exhibition graphics

Background

During the restoration of the Sandham Memorial Chapel, Stanley Spencer’s First World War paintings which were painted for the chapel were shown in an exhibition at Somerset House. The exhibition, designed by Casson Mann, showed the paintings as they would have been in their original setting in the chapel, but gallery lighting enabled visitors to see them as they had never been seen before.

Sandham Memorial Chapel

Sandham Memorial Chapel

Research

Stanley was commissioned by Mr & Mrs Behrend to paint  the murals in their recently commissioned chapel in 1923, and they were completed in 1932. During our research into fonts of this period we discovered the font Granby, which was cut by foundry Stephenson, Blake & Co in 1930. Interestingly it is almost identical to Johnston, the font designed by Edward Johnston for the London Underground in 1915-16. So similar in fact, that why London Transport didn’t object to it being produced is not entirely clear, but it could be because Stephenson, Blake & Co. cut the original wooden masters for the Underground lettering.

Granby font

Granby font sample

 

What we did

Due to the weights available, we decided to use the New Johnston font, which is an updated version of Johnston, but still keeps some of the original quirky features, for example the diamond dot above the ‘i’, and diamond shaped comma, and full stop.

Using this font as the basis for the identity REG designed the title panel, the exhibition graphics and accompanying booklet for the exhibition.

The booklet needed carried the caption texts for the main paintings so needed to be easy to carry around and have low production costs. We decided to use very thin paper – inspired by ‘bible paper’ – and to allow the ‘show-through’ of text to reflect the honest nature of the paintings. Inspired by churches and the period we used bronze staples to add a interesting detail. All the graphics were produced using one colour throughout the exhibition, for this we chose an earthy dark brown inspired by the colours in the paintings.

introduction

 

Client feedback

Thank you so very much indeed for all your work on this – you have combined period charm with contemporary elegance, and it looks wonderful.
Amanda Bradley, Assistant Curator of Pictures and Sculpture for the National Trust and co-curator of the exhibition.

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