I was fortunate enough to go to Venice recently and spent loads of time looking at art from various centuries right up to the present. Venice must be the most painted city in the world – it is the artists’ favourite. On my return I started thinking about the depiction of south London in art and wondered where south London is most famously portrayed in art?
Well, a little research revealed there are relatively few well-known paintings of south London. Of the world’s famous painters, Pisarro probably produced more works featuring south London scenes than anyone else, including three in the National Gallery – ‘Road to Sydenham’ (Lawrie Park Avenue), ‘Fox Hill, Upper Norwood’ and ‘Lordship Lane Station’. Views of Greenwich Hospital/Naval College have been painted by Turner and Canaletto (Tate Britain) and numerous other works featuring Greenwich are in the National Maritime Museum. Turner’s famous ‘Fighting Temeraire’ (National Gallery) depicts a ship from the Battle of Trafalgar being towed to the breaker’s yard in Rotherhithe. Thames bridges have featured in many artists work such as Whistler – Battersea Bridge (Tate Britain), Monet – Waterloo Bridge and Canaletto – Westminster and Walton Bridge, while The Crystal Palace at Sydenham Hill has been painted by a number of artists including Pisarro and Martinet.
In 20th century, south London was portrayed in much ‘poster art’ such as in the London Transport Museum (lots of Kew Gardens) and Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum collections, but probably the most famous depiction of south London was, in fact, a photo of Battersea Power Station by Aubrey Powell, featured on Pink Floyd’s ‘Animals’ album.
So where are the contemporary artists who portray south London? Completely by chance I came across two, who use very different styles. Firstly I was wandering round Herne Hill Market one Sunday morning and I came across a stall selling very attractive prints and posters of many recognisable local scenes and buildings. Chatting to the stallholder I found out they were created by South London Prints. In particular, a view over London from Blythe Hill caught my eye and gave me food for thought for another blog post.
Then, walking through Dulwich one day I saw a sign for a pop-up gallery. It was just a private house with paintings and jewellery displayed in the front room and hall; many of the paintings featured local scenes and were painted in a very individual and striking style. I met the artist, Angelique Hartigan, and we had an interesting chat about her work.
If you’re looking for something different for your home or a gift with a local theme, I’d highly recommend both of these. Check them out.