Monthly Archives: October 2016

1066, Night Skies and the Battle of Hastings.

detail from large Night Sky 1066 painting

Night Sky (detail)

1066 and all that

The last few weeks have been dominated by preparations  for my  exhibition in the Sussex town of Battle which opened yesterday.  It’s not called Battle for nothing. If you don’t already know you soon will: Friday marks the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 1066 – the one date every English person knows. (Or do they, still?)

The centrepiece is the largest painting  and has borders inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry.  You can see Halley’s Comet in the top left-hand corner.

Night Sky, Oct 14th 1066

Night Sky, Oct 14th 1066

The exhibition

…is called ‘Reading the Heavens: Night Sky, October 14th 1066’.  It’s composed entirely of night skies.  The centrepiece, above, shows what William and Harold and everyone else would have seen if they’d gazed up into the sky around then.  I’d better avoid tasteless jokes  on the lines that Harold must have looked up or he wouldn’t have got an arrow in his eye -it’s a long time ago  and it isn’t even certain he did.


detail from 1066 painting

Halley’s Comet (detail)


From earliest times people have gazed up into the stars  What does it all mean? Where do we belong in that immensity?  Around Easter in 1066 Halley’s Comet appeared in the sky.  It’s even shown in the Bayeux Tapestry.  People marvelled at it and what it might portend. What did both sides feel on the eve of the struggle? What were the omens? How much were they like us?

Why this subject?

Before I was an artist I taught medieval French language and literature.  After the Conquest, William ravaged the North and gave  the English nobility a rough time. French became the language of the wealthy, educated and powerful in England.   Many  early ‘French’ poems and stories were actually written in England.  And the Bayeux tapestry – which tells the story of the Conquest from William’s point of view of course – was probably made in England. My interest in the events of 1066 and the Bayeux Tapestry goes back a long way.

Night sky in late winter

detail from large painting

Night Sky (detail)









Night Sky, Aquarius


Astronomy and astrology only parted company recently. 

Newton took an intense interest in astrology and alchemy. Early Arabic and western astronomers gave poetic names to the constellations.  Dragon, lynx, scorpion, bear, lion, bull…Quite a few of my paintings take particular dates or events and show  the constellations and stars at that moment.  Roughly.  (It’s art, not science!)  Some of them use more artistic licence than others.

the paintings

Exhibition pictures

visitors at the show

The Town Crier at the exhibition







There’s a lovely piece about the painting and my work  in the current edition of Sussex Life:

1066 Sussex Life article

Here are some tiny night sky paintings on reclaimed cedar blocks made specially for the exhibition.

2016-10-06-16-51-14 2016-10-06-16-49-50







            Moon, Flight of Birds                                           Black Moon

small night sky painting


small night sky painting

Ring Around the Moon