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Very recently this 20 feet wide panorama by the French artist Pierre Prévost (1764 – 1823) has been put on display at the Museum of London. Painted around 1815 just after the Battle of Waterloo, it shows a 360 degree view of London as observed from the tower of St Margaret’s church, Westminster. It was done in watercolour on paper and is glued onto a canvas backing. It was a preparatory piece for a much larger monumental panorama, now lost.

The museum acquired the painting for £200,000 at auction held at Sotheby’s last July.

On Thursday last week I went to see it for the first time. It is lovely. It is not the museum’s fault that the digital versions released since the acquisition cannot possibly do justice to the original version. The colour is far more vibrant for a start. But there is great pleasure to be had zooming in on the detail, which I shall try and demonstrate here. Clearly the artist had a great deal of fun with it.

But also, just to note, for the first time I now properly understand the topography of the old Palace of Westminster: how it stood in relation to the river, Westminster Hall, Old and New Palace yard, and so on.

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Old Palace of Westminster, the centrepiece of the painting.

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New Palace Yard and Westminster Bridge.

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New Palace Yard looking further east to the new Strand Bridge, later Waterloo Bridge, and St Paul’s beyond.

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Detail. Carriages in New Palace Yard.

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Detail. New Palace Yard. A small crowd listening to a speaker, perhaps, or street vendor or performing animal.

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Detail. Two men having a punch-up! Onlookers.

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Detail. Charming depiction of a collier and his cart.

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Middlesex Guildhall, now the Supreme Court.

My only quibble with the display is that the three glass covers of the display cabinet are joined by strips of metal which are actually rather intrusive. I hope these can be improved upon somehow.

That aside, the panorama is a wonder, giving a superb depiction – albeit idealised – of London two hundred years ago. Do go and see it!


More about this at the Museum of London. 

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A guest post by John Hawkins. This article was first published in London Historians members’ newsletter from December 2014.


 

In 1855, members of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society visited the Inner Temple, taking time to admire its collections of paintings and prints. Referring to one of the engravings in the old Parliament Chamber, the report of their visit that was published subsequently said:

A bird’s-eye View of the whole of the (Inner and Middle) Temple is also here, engraved by R. White in a large plate (35 by 18½ in.), which was published in 1671, when Sir Heneage Finch, Attorney-General, was Treasurer of the Inner Temple. In one corner are his arms, and in the other those of the Duke of York, with the Holy Lamb and Pegasus, the emblems of the two Temples, and in the margin several other shields of the Benchers. From this print a copy was made at the expense of the Society of the Inner Temple, in 1770 [see Ill. 1], but without engraver’s name. It is of the same size as the original, and intended for a facsimile, but is not quite faithful in some minor details. The same view had, however, been previously copied in Stow’s Survey, edit. 1720, and it is identical with that of which a reduced copy in Brayley’s Londiniana, vol. iii. [1829], is entitled ‘The Temple Buildings in 1720’, and with a print published by Laurie, 1831, entitled ‘The Temple in 1722’. Also in Strype’s Stow, dated 1755. (1)

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Anon. after R. White: The Temple in 1671, re-engraved 1770.

‘R. White’ is presumably Robert White (1645-1703), who is generally believed to have assisted David Loggan with the engravings for Oxonia Illustrata between 1665 and 1675 and would therefore have been very familiar with the bird’s-eye views of buildings that were used extensively by Loggan at Oxford and later at Cambridge. White also produced engravings of other London buildings at around this date, for example Bethlem Hospital in 1677. If we can believe the report of the visit, the 1770 version (36 by 19 in) is indeed similar in size to the lost 1671 version. It is regrettable that the report does not itemise the changes ‘in some minor details’.

Although the report’s author did not say so, versions of the Temple engraving had also by then appeared elsewhere. (2) From the end of the seventeenth-century, a number of illustrated books on London were published, arguably reaching their high point with John Strype’s 1720 edition of John Stow’s Survey of London. Four of these publications contained very similar engravings of the Temple, of which the two earliest are almost certainly based on the lost version of 1671. A significant difference is immediately noticeable between two late seventeenth-century engravings (from Delaune’s London, c.1681 and Morden & Lea’s Prospects, c.1687) and two from the early eighteenth-century (from Strype’s Survey, 1720 and Bowles’s London Described, 1731), which is the change in the layout of the gardens. By the early 1700s the western and middle gardens were planted more formally than they had been in the late 1600s and the eastern garden had apparently disappeared entirely. The fact that the less formal, but more extensive, garden is shown in the 1770 re-engraving of the 1671 print suggests that this reflects a real change that occurred towards the end of the seventeenth-century. That the less formal garden was also present in the 1671 version is supported by the fact that the report refers to changes in minor details compared to the re-engraving of 1770, but not the major change that would have resulted from a complete redesign of the gardens. The catalogue of the Guildhall Art Gallery, which holds the Corporation’s collection, lists seven versions of the Temple print, those listed above, plus two others of probably later date derived from them. (3)

The size of the 1671 original engraving suggests that it was not intended as an illustration for a book, but for use as ‘wall furniture’, an increasingly popular use of larger prints at this time. Evidence for this is provided by the complete absence of any references to engravings of the other Inns of Court made to a similar scale, or as early as 1671. This being the case, the mortality rate of prints in such use tended to be high and it would not be surprising if only a limited number of copies survived. In this case, however, it would seem that there may now be no surviving copy at all. This may well have resulted from a short print run. Although copper plates, when treated with care, could be used for making several hundred engravings before a deterioration in quality became noticeable, the limiting factor in this case was more likely to have been the specialist interest of the subject matter. It is very unlikely that White would have produced the plate (or, more likely, plates – there would probably have been two) speculatively and he probably received a fee from the Society for the considerable amount of work involved. This was around the time subscription lists for books and engravings of various types were becoming common, but no advertisements for the 1671 engraving have thus far been identified in the contemporary press.

In the introduction to the first volume of his calendar of the Inn’s records, Inderwick refers to ‘a drawing of the Temple in the possession of the Inn … dated 1563’ and a ‘drawing … published in 1770, by the Hon. Society of the Inner Temple, describing the Inn as it appeared in the year 1671, when the Duke of York, afterwards James II., was made a bencher, and before the great fire which occurred in the Temple in 1678’. He does not explicitly refer here to the 1671 version of the engraving and it is thus possible that by 1898 it was no longer in the possession of the Inn. However, in his introduction to volume three he refers to ‘a map [sic] in the possession of the Inner Temple … “as it was in 1671, when the king and the duke of York dined with the treasurer” Sir Heneage Finch’, which could be a reference to the earlier version. (4)

Given the subject matter, there are several collections that might be expected to hold copies of the 1671 engraving, including those of the Corporation of London and the Royal Family. Unfortunately neither of these do, and a copy is similarly absent from the collections of the British and Bodleian Libraries, the British, Ashmolean and Fitzwilliam Museums and the Museum of London. The fate of the Inn’s own copy is unknown. It is possible that it was the ‘map’ referred to when Inderwick wrote his introductions, but even if this were the case it does not seem to have survived the bombing of 1941. Will a copy ever resurface? It is not beyond the bounds of possibility and would certainly fill an important gap in the history of not only the Inner Temple, but also of seventeenth-century London. ‘Let diligent search be made …’
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1) Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, vol. 2 (London: J.H. & J. Parker, 1856), pp. 66-7.
2) John Stow (ed. John Strype) Survey of London 5th edn. (London, 1720); 6th edn (London, 1754/5).
3) I am grateful to Sir John Baker for pointing this out.
4) Frederick Andrew Inderwick (ed.) A calendar of Inner Temple records 5 vols. (London: Inner Temple, 1858-1936), vol. 1, p. xxx and vol. 3, p. xxxi.

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A Year of Turner & the Thames by Roger Williams – guest review by LH Member Jane Young.

turnerthamesIt is almost enough to simply say this little book is absolutely enchanting and you should certainly rush out and buy it.

It is a journey, but also a journal, of a year spent tracing the footsteps of Joseph Mallord William Turner. The beautiful narration draws together several threads, charting the life and times of Turner and visits made in pursuit of this, interwoven with entertaining accounts of encounters on the way.

A Tardis of a book, measuring just 15cm square, packed to brimming with inventories and insightful descriptions of collections pertaining to the work of Turner across England. The reader travels with the author, visiting the haunts of Turner and his contemporaries, taking in galleries, museums, archives, stately homes and some rather nice public houses alongside some that are no longer what they were.

An added bonus are the author’s own illustrations. Described on the frontispiece as ‘drawings are attempted’ the finely executed sketches and watercolours contained within are accomplished and delightful.

In part biography, part catalogue and part history, all meticulously researched, this story of a year is immensely readable in exquisite attention to detail enhanced with snippets of personal memories that resonate with the places visited.

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A book for anyone interested in an introduction to JMW Turner; for anyone who already knows about Turner; for anyone interested in London History; for anyone interested in Art History; for anyone interested in art and illustration; for anyone interested in the Thames; for anyone who would just like something delightful to read and pleasing to look at: This little book is enchanting and you should certainly rush out and buy it.


A Year of Turner & the Thames (216pp) by Roger Williams is published by Bristol Book Publishing with a cover price of £15.

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This is a Public Service Announcement on behalf of City of London Guides. 

Have you considered joining the Exploring the City programme run by the City of London which provides lots of opportunities to learn about the City and its history?

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The course consists of a programme of two-hour walks on Saturday mornings led by four experienced City Guides and you’ll be able to observe their guiding techniques at first hand. The first and final classes of each term are held in one of the Committee rooms at the Guildhall and at the end of the term students are asked to deliver a short presentation to the class on a topic which interested them during a particular walk. You’ll also be asked to research and answer a question on one of the walks. This is excellent practice should you decide to apply for the City Guides course in the future.

You can join the course at the start of any of the three terms in 2018/19 and the theme and topics are different in each term.

The Autumn term focuses on the uniqueness of the City, its institutions and government and its role as an important financial centre, its architecture and the effect of specific events, such as the Great Fire, on its development.

The Spring course traces the history of the City from its foundation by the Romans through to the present day, looking at the development of the area from an industrial, residential and business perspective.

The Summer course shows how the City expanded beyond the Roman walls into surrounding villages such as Clerkenwell, Southwark and Spitalfields.

We’ve had very good feedback from previous students that they’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning from the Guides and marvel at their extensive knowledge. Many students have gone on to complete the City Guides course successfully.

We hope that you’ll consider joining us for what promises to be another successful programme of London walks.

Course details for the coming year are:
Autumn term: 22 September – 1 December 2018
Spring Term: 12 January – 23 March 2019
Summer Term: 27 April – 6 July 2019

Times: 10.00am – 12noon on Saturdays

Please see the City of London website for course fees and enrolment details or call 020 7608 2753.

Alison Woollard – Course co-ordinator and lead tutor

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This article, by London Historians member Laurence Scales, first appeared in our monthly members’ newsletter from April 2018. 

I recently had my hand on some squares of black silk lace, made by young girls of Bridgenorth in 1774, the residents of a workhouse. This was over fifty years before Sir Edwin Chadwick’s ‘reforms’ and some workhouses were enlightened. Training girls to make lace could save them from destitution.

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Black Silk Lace, 1774.

A few months ago I was invited by the Historian in Residence at the Royal Society of Arts (Royal since 1908), to help catalogue some papers. I cannot claim that they are new discoveries, just that they are little seen. No one has had the time to make the list, until now. So, once a week I commute into the 18th century to make more accessible for future researchers this stash of cultural heritage.

The RSA started in Rawthmell’s coffee house, Covent Garden, in 1754. Since 1774 it has lived in a fine Adam building nearby, now awkwardly equipped with lifts and network cables, and with one or two steps scattered in odd places as if to catch the unwary. The RSA, full name the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (n.b. it has not much to do with art), is not to be confused with the famous scientific Royal Society for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge, nor the Royal Academy of Arts, nor yet the Royal Institution. Dr Johnson was a member of the Society of Arts, as was Benjamin Franklin, William Wilberforce and Karl Marx – and a few other members will make an appearance shortly.

Turnip rooted cabbages, starting a forest from acorns, new recipes for manures, hats made of wood shavings to rival those from Leghorn, cobalt glazes, carrot marmalade, medicinal rhubarb, whale harpoons, and zebra wood from the Mosquito Shore – these all became a focus for the Society of Arts in its first 50 years. It was a period just before progress began to be clearly identified with science, so prizes were awarded for enlightened and patriotic efforts to fill particular wants or shortages in agriculture, colonies and trade, manufacture, chemistry, mechanics and ‘polite arts’. ‘Art’ used to cover all the other things in the list, not just drawing and sculpture. There were also bounties awarded for unsolicited worthy efforts such as lace making at Bridgenorth.

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The ‘Great Room’ of the RSA as depicted c.1810. It remains, complete with allegorical paintings by Sir James Barry.

I see some intriguing items in a day – mostly letters, but sometimes there is drawing, or an ear of wheat, or a square of black silk lace – an exhibition in microcosm, in fact. The Great Exhibition of 1851 was a later initiative by this Society, by the way.

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Drawing included with a letter about harpoons, presumably just for the joy of it, in 1777.

It may seem I have found a rather out-of-the-way interest at the RSA. Not so. That recipe for carrot marmalade was eventually copied to Captain Cook at Deptford to try out for a long voyage and avoid scurvy. But it turned out that he did not like it and watered his crew with pine beer instead.

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A Simple Diagram, Georgian Style. Yoke for Ploughing with Oxen Instead of Horses.

And who cares about acorns? Well, the Royal Navy did for a start. And people needed firewood. And then there was new interest in smelting. By 1775 England was going bald. Over 50 years or so the RSA prompted the planting of 50 million trees. (It is believed that the great storm of 1987 only toppled 15 million trees.) While deforestation was one concern, others were already starting to worry about pollution and occupational diseases, and to come up with remedies.

Those awarding the prizes at the Society often did not see the thing they were rewarding. It was a strangely egalitarian society in the sense that the Earl of Winterton, for example, to be considered for his medal had to get his illiterate farm hand (‘X, his mark’) to sign a certificate attesting to the fact that he really did plant all those acorns that the Earl claimed. Sometimes it was the other way round, the farm hand invented something and had to get his boss to testify to its efficacy – the fumigating bellows for example, against ravening caterpillars, tried out in the royal gardens at Kew.

Correspondence about manure and rhubarb criss-crossed the land, long before the penny post. The postal service was very good, even if the best address someone could give was the wagon stopping outside the Bear and Ragged Staff at Smithfield – or at the Artichoke, Radcliffe Highway.

Another member or fellow of the Society was John Howard, the first person ever to be described as a philanthropist. The Howard League for Penal Reform is a name you hear in the news sometimes. But he did not found it. It is named in his honour. John Howard was a landowner of Bedfordshire, interested in new strains of wheat. ‘I often eat some good puddings made of that Turkey wheat,’ he said in a letter to the Society in 1772.

In 1773, when he was aged 52, he suddenly began an obsessive round of visits to hundreds of prisons. Having been appointed High Sheriff of Bedfordshire he took the job sufficiently seriously (unlike some) that he visited his local jail, and was horrified to find that the only pay received by the jailer had to be found by the prisoners. And many of the prisoners were there because of their debts! It was the same everywhere else in England. Howard then devoted himself to improving prisons for the next 17 years until he died of typhus, from poking his nose into a prison in the Ukraine. Holland produced the best prisons, but at least Britain produced John Howard.

His modest Bloomsbury home rightly wears a blue plaque, the heritage scheme started by the Society in 1866. That scheme has now landed with English Heritage, and imitators. The RSA starts things and then hands them on.

Did the Society find a space for women? Yes. An intriguing 18th century correspondent was Ann Williams, post mistress of Gravesend who hatched silkworms in her dead letter pigeon hole, and reared them in a hatbox, sometimes referring to her little creepy crawlies as ‘reptiles’ with the imprecision of the time. The Society awarded her 20 guineas (equivalent to several thousand pounds today). She wrote, ‘I shall ever think it the happiest period of my life.’

The RSA continues good work. I risk sounding like a commercial. But my real point is that I always come away from the RSA with a feeling of optimism about what people are capable of, even those who are not superhuman. Georgian life was a hard grind, and often cut short. Here was a bunch of rich Georgians rewarding a bunch of usually less well-off people for doing something outside their usual toil, public spirited, worthwhile, perhaps risky, often something as little as planting experimentally a few rows of medicinal rhubarb. Not selling it, mind – just planting it to see if it would grow, for a better future. That spirit is real cultural heritage.

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Another happy ending, from 1768.


Laurence Scales is a guide specialising in offbeat historical walking tours focusing on intriguing and amusing tales of discovery, invention and intelligence. He is a volunteer working at the Royal Institution for which he has devised walking tours, and also guides walks and tunnel tours for the London Canal Museum. Welcoming residents and visitors who want to look beyond the main London attractions he reveals a wealth of lesser known historic sites and offers a double-take on some famous ones.
Please contact Laurence via his web site.

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As a great admirer of Wyndham Lewis’s art, I was delighted to see his portrait of TS Eliot at the Royal Academy of Arts, on loan all the way from Durban, South Africa.

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It is part of the 250th anniversary of the Academy’s Summer Exhibition, a retrospective being held concurrently with this year’s show: The Great Spectacle.

This painting caused great controversy when the Academy rejected it for the 1938 Summer Exhibition. Many of Lewis’s peers were incensed, including Augustus John, who resigned his membership of the R.A. over the issue. His resignation letter is also on display.
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Eliot liked the portrait, but a possible reason the work was rejected was that both artist and sitter had a somewhat jaundiced view of the Academy. There are some choice quotes here.

I’ve only mentioned Wyndham Lewis once before on this blog and then only in passing in a piece about David Bowie’s personal collection. Percy Wyndham Lewis (1882 – 1957) was a Canadian-born artist and intellectual, active in the first half of the 20th Century. He served with distinction in WW1 as an artillery officer. Before the conflict he had been a member of the Camden Town Group and was active in the Vorticist movement (who expounded a sort of hybrid of Cubist and Futurist styles), being a contributor to its magazine, BLAST. Lewis was a combative critic of the intellectual Left in the 20s and 30s. In the early 1930s, like many at the time, he became admirer of Hitler, a position which had completely reversed by 1936. For the last years of his life from the early 1950s he was completely blind.

But back to the show. The Great Spectacle is indeed great and an most certainly an excellent spectacle. In the spirit of the Wyndam Lewis controversy, there is an amusing picture by Alfred Munnings (1878 – 1959, surely the best painter of horses ever) which takes the piss out of admirers of modern art.

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The inclusion of this picture is significant in that Munnings, as outgoing President of the Academy, in 1949 famously made a drunken speech attacking modern art and its practitioners. Fortunately for us, it was recorded, but the Academy must have been rightly horrified.

So two of our best painters of the 20th Century attacking the Academy from opposite directions. They couldn’t win, really. But all credit to them for showing us their story, warts and all, through this superbly curated show, necessarily chronological, but paying close attention to genre. All the British greats are there, famous and obscure, men and women: some of your favourites are bound to be there.


The Summer Exhibition 2018 itself is a joy. I hadn’t been for over 25 years, but from my dim recollection of the previous occasion compared with 2018, I’m sure that this year’s show is superior in every way. Brighter, more variety, more imagination, talent. Many pieces are political, many quirky, lots are funny and indeed, some are all three. I particularly enjoyed the humorous homages of Tretchikoff’s Chinese Girl, but there is so much more to savour.

A big anniversary year for the Royal Academy, and they’ve played a blinder.

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Yesterday I went along to three exhibitions by City of London institutions which opened recently. All are well worth visiting; all are free.

Guildhall Art Gallery: Sublime Symmetry
This exhibition features the works of William De Morgan, the late 19th century London ceramicist, friend and collaborator of William Morris, GF Watts and many others. We are long-standing fans of De Morgan. The closure of a dedicated gallery in Wandsworth some years ago tragically meant that a huge collection of his work, which is owned by the De Morgan Foundation, has been kept behind closed doors. It’s important therefore to do all you can to get to this show. The theme is De Morgan’s background in mathematics, how that meshed with his interest in Islamic symmetical forms and from there informed his decorative work. The artist’s father and brother were both celebrated mathemeticians. Augustus De Morgan was the founding Professor of Mathematics at UCL, friend and correspondent of Ada Lovelace among others, and clearly a warm and funny character. It felt good to meet him. But of course, the stars of the show are De Morgan’s sumptuous, exquisite works. Vases, bowls, dishes, tiles all beautifully decorated with figures from nature and myth.
This runs until 28 October.

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Guildhall Library: Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers
More a display than a full blown exhibition, this is the latest in the library’ series which features the City’s livery companies. This year celebrates the 450th anniversary of this company’s first Charter, granted by Elizabeth I 1568, although the company can trace its origins back to 1416. We are shown many objects from its collection, well complemented by items from the library as well. This includes probably my favourite, the so-called “Breeches” Bible from 1589, which was used for the administration of oaths. It is, of course, a late generation English bible before the advent of the Authorised Version (1611) and furhermore is the only example of a chained book in the library’s collection.  In addition we have a trowel (of course), ledgers, ordnances and minute books, a loving cup and a portrait miniature of its most famous member, the playwright Ben Jonson who was a bricklayer before he made it big in the London theatre.
Runs until 31 August.

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The ‘Breeches’ Bible, 1598.

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Ben Jonson’s overdue subscription recorded as paid.

London Metropolitan Archives: Picturing Forgotten London
What I love about the LMA exhibitions – and this one is no exception – is that you see historical images that you’ve never seen before. Not one. This is remarkable considering the hundreds of London history books out there, not to mention what’s online. To choose one example, I thought I’d seen everything on frost fairs: not so!

The headline title is a broad topic indeed which features not forgotten London necessarily, but a London which simply no longer exists, whether the obvious things such a buildings, but also professions, animals, forms of government, everyday life, religion, commerce, housing, transport, technology, sport, food and welfare. The images which bring these themes to life – whether maps, engravings or photographs – are clearly heavily researched astutely chosen.

Warmly recommended. Runs until 31 August.

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London’s last frost fair, 1814.

By the time this print was published, just few days later, the ice had melted, and the fair gone forever. London Bridge can be seen in the distance.

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Rural Archway, 1841.

A winding lane with barns and a farmhouse. It is hard to imagine London’s built-up suburbs as open country but the last farms in the area only disappeared in the early twentieth century.

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Commercial warehousing, buildings and shops in front of St Pancras Station, 1871.

St. Pancras station opened in 1868 but the hotel and grand entrance were not completed until 1876. Older buildings were demolished as part of the project, including this row of houses and shops which stood nearby. It’s hard to imagine this picturesque scene on one of the busiest parts of Euston Road today.

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South Bank, 1952. Featuring County Hall and the Skylon.

This seemingly free-floating steel structure stood outside the Dome of Discovery on the main Festival of Britain site on the South Bank. With no particular function or message, ‘Skylon’ was nonetheless much loved. It was removed shortly after the closing of the Festival.

 

 

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