St. Paul’s Cathedral

We sat on a balcony last night on the other side of Blackfriars Bridge from St. Paul’s and were able to admire the way that it still just about commands the horizon against the towers of the Barbican, looking more like Bramante’s Tempietto when seen from a distance, not that Wren had seen it, but he would have known it perfectly well from engravings in his extensive library of travel and architectural books:-



I have been following with interest the Gentle Author’s campaign against what he describes as ‘the creeping plague of ghastly facadism’. It is one of those things which, once noticed, is surprisingly common, a result presumably of developers doing deals with local authorities whereby they gut properties on condition that they retain the façade.

One of the odder examples is on Commercial Road on the edge of the Mercer’s estate, where there was an odd and old-fashioned group of shops, including a fishmonger’s open to the fumes of the passing traffic. It has nearly all been demolished, apart from one half-timbered shop which scarcely seems worth the effort of preserving :-

And two façades on White Horse Road where the old bakery used to be which also don’t seem to merit the effort of preserving:-


Peter Smithson at the RA

A question from Ellis Woodman as to whether or not there are still people alive who were students at the RA Schools when Albert Richardson taught architecture reminded me that Peter Smithson, the well known brutalist, enrolled as a student in 1948, after completing his studies, interrupted by the war, at the King’s College School of Architecture in Newcastle. What on earth will he have made of the teaching of Richardson who liked to be carried round Ampthill in a Sedan Chair ? Anyway, it was at the RA that Smithson met Anthony Caro, another improbable product of its conservative teaching.


3 Directors

Here we are, three directors of the NPG, Roy Strong, who was Director from 1967 to 1974, me from 1994 to 2002, Nick Cullinan who took over in 2015, together representing a mere fifty two years of the gallery’s history, only missing the late John Hayes and Sandy Nairne:-


Ian McKeever

I went to visit Ian McKeever, an artist whose work I have long admired, long before I knew him at the RA and before I read his writings on art when I was at the National Gallery. But I had never been to his studio, deep in the deepest Dorset countryside, somewhere near Shaftesbury, where he produces work which it is easier to understand when seen in situ, produced in an atmosphere of the utmost calm and long spells of working on series of abstract works, which are like musical performances, layers of single colours in veils of paint and clouds.

I had only half known, and greatly admired, the way the work is informed by his knowledge of Old Master painting, including a series of gouaches which work with, and in doing so interpret, images of historical portraits:-


Epstein, Madonna and Child

I was sitting in Cavendish Square, waiting until it was time for dinner – nor a very satisfactory square owing to extensive bomb damage and the creation of an underground car park – when my eye was caught by the fine sculpture of the Madonna and Child which Jacob Epstein did for the Convent of the Holy Child of Jesus after the war, when Louis Osman was commissioned to design a bridge connecting Nos. 12 and 13 and commissioned Epstein without telling the Mother Superior that he was Jewish:-