A banner from the Dartington collection, usually in the Great Hall, is to be part of an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.
Right: ‘Buildings’ department banner in the Great Hall
Made by Elizabeth Peacock in the 1930s, the banner is to be included in the exhibition ‘Anarchy & Beauty, William Morris and His Legacy, 1860-1960’ from 16 October 2014 to 11 January 2015.
Below: Extract adapted from The Banners of the Great Hall by Dorothy Elmhirst, News of the Day, 23 October 1946
“It was a bold step to introduce modern banners into a a 14th century hall.
They might prove so obtrusive and incongruous that they would detract from the essential design of the Hall itself, or they might be so insignifi cant and trivial that they would merely confuse without adding to the total effect.
That these dangers were avoided we have the artist herself to thank.
The acoustic problem of the Great Hall caused anxiety, and in default of tapestries, modern handwoven banners serve to absorb sound and at the same time give colour and added interest.
Elizabeth Peacock, one of the most creative handweavers in England, spent long hours sitting alone in the Hall absorbing the qualities and the atmosphere.
Eight banners represent the Estate departments: guild banners, serving the same decorative purpose as heraldic emblems. The Poultry Department, hangs next the gallery: white wings in horizontal form against a background of
crimson and black.
Next: the Building Department: great blocks of stone, solid, ancestral, almost prehistoric; Woodlands: tree trunks with the suggestion of green branches; Textiles in blue: three geometric designs suggest the movement of spinning and weaving.
Opposite, Orchards: rays of light falling across an orchard; Gardens: deep earthy colours of the Devon landscape; Farms: gay in the upspringing golden corn, and finally the united services of the Estate, Central Office, Maintenance and the rest: a net holding various elements together.
Against the back wall, Education: range upon range of hills reaching to a far horizon and The Arts: figures mounting upward to some heavenly summit, forever out of sight.
To some, the significance and the meaning of the banners will seem obscure and abstract, but remembering that art is not tied to representation, that it can be the free expression of the artist’s vision in terms of form and colour, of pattern and composition, achieving unity in the harmonious relationship of all the elements involved, let us look again with fresh vision at our banners.
To a remarkable degree Elizabeth has contrived to make the banners an organic part of the Great Hall, combining tradition with originality and giving to her banners the scale, dimension and nobility that makes them now so indispensable, a part of the whole.”