You will remember this as the picturesque harbour and church of the village of Bosham on the West Sussex coast. A beautiful place, its history goes back beyond the Saxons, who built the parish church in the picture. It was a favourite of the Danish king , Cnut who reigned before the Norman conquest. The apocryphal story of Cnut attempting to turn back the waves to demonstrate his power is alleged to have happened here. What is true, however, is that his daughter, a child who drowned, is buried in the church, close to the massive chancel arch
Bosham church features on the Bayeux tapestry, which is really an embroidery and which was made in England, not Bayeux, but never mind, it is nevertheless an amazing work of art which has survived. The church doesn’t look like the one in the photograph, but is represented by the enormous Saxon chancel arch, so perhaps it was only the chancel which was there then. Why was it shown on the tapestry? Harold Godwinsson who was in the running to become king of England, as was William of Normandy, sailed from here on his ill-fated voyage to Normandy to meet William. Later he was shipwrecked on the French coast, handed over to William, who kept him as a house-guest cum prisoner for some months, and as the story goes, tricked him into swearing an oath to support his, William’s, bid for the English throne.
Shortly after writing this in draft form, a matter of hours in fact, came the announcement that France is very kindly loaning the embroidery to England, to be put on display. How strange is that. The first time in 950 years that the embroidery would be coming back to England, and I have just written about it. It is thought that the embroidery was commissioned by Bishop Odo, William’s half-brother, who was made Duke of Kent, but who was also Bishop of Bayeux. The work was most likely carried out by Anglo-Saxon needlewomen. Their needlework was famous throughout Europe, called, I think, Opus Anglicanorum. Also we are told that there are hints of Anglo-Saxon amongst the Latin titles, although I have not checked that
Later it came to force of arms, at Senlac Hill further along the Sussex coast, called the Battle of Hastings, although not at Hastings, in 1066, and the result is well-known. But this piece is about Bosham, and how to paint it, which I have done many, many times in so many moods. Always popular at exhibitions, and has also been commissioned, the problem is that everyone wants that same view, naturally enough, because it is so very tranquil and delightful to look at.
How can I do something different? I thought of this frame, which will allow an image of about 50×15 centimetres, so will appear as a panorama of the shoreline, with no foreground at all, so completely different to the previous paintings of this view. I did something like it before, of the fishing boats at Beer, and that sold, so I will try it again for this exhibition and see what happens.
This is the actual frame to give you more of an idea