I had a bit of time to spare before a meeting in the City, so was able to call in on the exhibition of topographical paintings at the Guildhall Art Gallery.
The earliest is a view from Observatory Hill, which shows the old Tudor Palace of Placentia, next door to Greenwich Hospital, in the process of being demolished. Oliver Cromwell had turned it into a biscuit factory. Next is a view of the New River Head in Finsbury which supplied water to the city. Canaletto is, of course, familiar – his view through the arches of the new Westminster Bridge which was under construction when he arrived in London in 1746. Less familiar is Samuel Scott painting the palaces facing the river, including the Duke of Richmond’s house and the Duke of Montagu’s.
But what is notable is the number of modern artists who have painted the city. There’s a beautiful Algernon Newton painting the view from a back window in Wimpole Street in 1925. Lucian Freud painting the view from his studio on Gloucester Terrace in the early 1970s. A fine view of London Wall, painted in 1965. Anthony Eyton painting the back yards of Hanbury Street in 1975. Rachel Whiteread photographs of buildings being demolished. Lisa Milroy unexpectedly realist. John Virtue is included with a magnificently dark view of St. Paul’s, painted while he was artist-in-residence at the National Gallery. One of the last is by Carl Laubin, who drew the Ondaatje Wing so beautifully the it got us planning permission.