Heavens Above! It’s a map of the stars, a painting of the constellations of the northern sky, the hemisphere boreal. At the very centre is Polaris – the Pole star in the tail of Ursa Minor (the Little Bear), so what you’re seeing is a view of the heavens as seen from the North Pole.
A map of the stars
The map of the stars includes all the zodiac constellations and many others such as Ursa Major, Draco and Pegasus – as well one or two surprises! Five of the brightest stars in order of magnitude are shown: Arcturus (in Boötes – the ploughman or herdsman), Vega (in Lyra – the harp), Capella (in Auriga – the charioteer), Altair (in Aquila – the eagle) and Aldebaran (in Taurus – the bull).
I have always been intrigued by antique star charts by people like Johannes Hevelius, Reiner Ottens, and Sidney Hall who published the profoundly beautiful Urania’s Mirror in 1824. I’m not ashamed to say that I raided their back-catalogue! It’s important to learn from the masters, after all.
The painting began simply as a way for me to learn about what’s up there and an excuse to paint a lot of stars with white ink, but it soon took on a life of it’s own. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that for all the heroes from Greek mythology wheeling around up there, the underlying themes were discovery and the human need to make sense of our place in the cosmos; in a word, science.
So why is David Bowie ‘floating in a most peculiar way’ playing Ziggy’s guitar? What’s Apollo 11 doing there? What’s with the Space Shuttle? Why two Endeavours? And why are East and West the wrong way around? If you want to know more you’ll have to read this blog…
When you visit the University of Oxford’s Natural History Museum its a job to know where to look - at the marvellous exhibits? Or at the magnificent architecture? In this painting you'll spot a dodo, some dinosaur footprints, the swifts that nest in the tower, a dinosaur skeleton and so much more! My favourite bit is the frog in the jar. What's your's? The title comes from Charles Darwin's book 'The Origin of Species' in which he wrote of his theory of evolution by natural selection: "There is grandeur in this view of life..." The print is last one of a limited edition (of 4) hand-made drypoint tinted with watercolour - 450mm x 700mm.