Axel Haig, Canterbury Cathedral, etching, 1912.
In his 1912 etching of Canterbury Cathedral, Haig depicts the north-east side of the historic church with the refectory in the foreground. It is printed on Japan paper and is 18 ¼ x 12 7/8 inches. On the right hand bottom corner is Haig’s monogram and the date. Only 250 proofs were printed.1
The image as a whole consists of Canterbury Cathedral, one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England. Located in Canterbury, Kent, it is the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Mother Church for the worldwide Anglican community. Originally built in 597, the cathedral went through many periods of rebuilding over the centuries, the most extensive of which resulting in the church being redesigned in the Gothic Norman style.2 Originally from France, the Gothic style at Canterbury uses pointed arches, vaulted roofs, buttresses, large windows, and spires that come together to form a massively imposing and intricate structure.3 According to Paul Frankl, the author of Gothic Architecture, these awe-inspiring structures built in the Gothic style symbolized the diminishing boundary between Man and God that was occurring during the time period the style was popular. As the towers grew higher to the sky, so did man and the artists who designed them become closer to God.4
In Haig’s print, the church can be seen in the background with a park in the foreground. Though Haig is best known as an artist, he spent his youth designing ships before moving to London to design churches and houses, where he also learned the principles of art. According to Haig, in regards to etching, he was entirely self-taught.5 Whether this is true or not, Canterbury Cathedral displays his mastery of the medium in his use of line and shading.
1 Illustrated Catalogue of Etchings by Axel Herman Haig (New York City: American Art Association, 1919), 108.
2 “Cathedral History,” Canterbury Cathedral, accessed April 26, 2015, http://canterbury-cathedral.org/conservation/history/.
3 Paul Frankl and Paul Crossley, Gothic Architecture, 278-285.
4 Ibid., 277.
5 “Drawings and Etchings by Axel H. Haig, R.E.,” The Building News and Engineering Journal (1904): 7-8.