King’s Lynn calligrapher pays own tribute to fallen of war

Calligraphy artist John Smith shows his work relating to the Great War. ANL-140425-151255001
Calligraphy artist John Smith shows his work relating to the Great War. ANL-140425-151255001
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Award-winning Lynn calligrapher, John Smith, has marked this year’s centenary of the start of the Great War in his own inimitable style.

He has designed an impressive work which incorporates part of The Exhortation together with Rupert Brooke’s 1914 poem The Dead and words from a 1917 letter by famous war artist Paul Nash.

Mr Smith is hoping it will be featured later in this year in national publications such as The Scribe, the journal of the Society of Scribes, or The Edge which is the magazine of the Calligraphy and Lettering Arts Society.

The horrors of the conflict are poignantly reflected in the design. Nash describes what he has seen: “Evil and the incarnate fiend alone can be master of this war, no glimmer of God’s hand is seen anywhere.”

Brooke’s poem starts: “These hearts were woven of human joys and cares, Washed marvellously with sorrow, swift to mirth.”

Why did he use those two particular pieces of work by Nash and Brooke?

Mr Smith said: “Many years ago I visited the World War One Museum at Ypres and I made a note of Nash’s letter because it was such a profound and moving statement – and of course I was well aware of his work as a war artist.

“I felt that Brook’s beautiful words contrasted with Nash’s devastating indictment and the piece was suitable in both content and size.”

A former lecturer at the Norfolk College of Arts and Technology at Lynn, where he taught art, graphics, lettering and calligraphy, Mr Smith lives in Gayton Road.

Over the years he has been a lecturer and demonstrator for pen companies, was a national winner of the Italic Handwriting Society’s annual competition, has had much of his calligraphic work published, has featured in numerous exhibitions and has two books published.

A Welshman, examples of Mr Smith’s work can be seen at Llandaff Cathedral, in Cardiff, where he inscribed its lists of bishops and deans and the Victoria Cross vellum for the cathedral’s Welsh Regiment Chapel.

He was also asked to write the volume – presented by The Queen – to record the names of donors who contributed to the conversion of Park House at Sandringham by the Leonard Cheshire Foundation.