Photo Gallery: Edith Cavell’s life story told through a series of paintings in the US

Artist Brian Whelan of Hanworth preparing for his art exhibition A Pilgrimage of Sight at the Norwich Cathedral. Picture: Denise Bradley Artist Brian Whelan of Hanworth preparing for his art exhibition A Pilgrimage of Sight at the Norwich Cathedral. Picture: Denise Bradley

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
8:54 AM

99 years after Edith Cavell was executed by the Germans during the First World War, her story is being celebrated in an unlikely place – the Washington National Cathedral in the United States.

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She is a Norfolk heroine, whose courage won hearts across the globe.

Now, the wartime exploits of Nurse Cavell will be depicted in 14 paintings by artist Brian Whelan, which will be unveiled in the US capital this month.

The series of artworks, called The Passion of Edith Cavell, was commissioned by Norwich Cathedral but will be first unveiled at Washington National Cathedral on Thursday, July 24, where the works will be on display for six weeks.

The paintings will then be shown briefly in Europe before coming to Norwich Cathedral for Easter 2015, to be displayed in the lead-up to the 100th anniversary of her execution by firing squad in October 2015. An international Red Cross nurse, Edith Cavell was executed for helping soldiers to escape across the Belgian border.

Mr Whelan, who now lives in Virginia in the US, said the commission came about after Norwich Cathedral librarian Canon Peter Doll and the Rev Phillip McFadyen, the Bishop’s adviser on visual arts, saw his work in Bury St Edmunds.

Before moving to America, Mr Whelan lived in London, East Anglia and Ireland, and his work has been particularly inspired by the wealth of medieval churches in Norfolk and its fine examples of medieval art.

The pair suggested the idea of a commission based on Norfolk-born Edith Cavell’s life.

Mr Whelan, 57, said: “I took some sketches to show them and they said they were impressed that I had painted her in a German expressionist style and that it would shock people out of complacency over her story.”

Because of her faith, Mr Whelan decided it would be fitting for the series to reflect the Passion of Christ and the 14 Stations of the Cross.

Mr Whelan added: “If people know anything of Edith Cavell, when they see the paintings I hope they will reconsider her and think of her in a different light and remember her for her compassion.”

Do you have a story about the First World War? Email kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk

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