Architecture exhibition reveals ‘intimate portrait’ of London’s transformation over 400 years

Guildhall Art Gallery’s forthcoming exhibition brings together works from the 17th century to the present day to illustrate how London’s ever-changing cityscape has inspired visiting and resident artists over four centuries.

Architecture of London (31 May - 1 Dec) will feature 80 works by over 60 artists, drawing from the City of London Corporation’s extensive art collection to examine the rich diversity of London’s buildings and its varied portrayal by artists.

The exhibition will also feature important loans from other major British collections and a number of private collections, including masterpieces by renowned and emerging artists, such as Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach and Catherine Yass.

Visitors will see the city from a wide range of viewpoints, including artists’ windows, vast panoramas, close-ups, and street views. Arranged thematically, the exhibition begins with views of London, exploring vistas, the earliest paintings of the capital, as well as artists’ views of London.

From the panoramas of Netherlandish artists in the 1600s to those who paint the London that they experience from their own unique perspective, the capital’s architecture has provided a rich subject for artists.

Highlights include Old St. Paul’s Diptych (1616), a rare Jacobean view of London and one of the first British paintings of a historic monument, and Canaletto’s London Seen Through an Arch of Westminster Bridge (1747).

The show continues with an exploration of London’s continuous transformation - from its rebuilding in the years following the Second World War to the city’s rising skyline in the present day, with works including David Ghilchik’s Out of the Ruins at Cripplegate (1962) and Richard I. B. Walker’s London from Cromwell Tower, Barbican (1977).

The exhibition goes on to showcase the intimate and everyday portrayals of London, usually viewed through artists' windows. It will feature works of suburban landscapes by artists’ who found London’s residential streets fascinating, for example, Spencer Gore, a founding member of the Camden Town Group, and Frank Auerbach, both extensive painters of London’s streets close to their homes and studios.

Architecture of London culminates with an exploration of artists' depictions of the beautiful details that make up an architectural whole. This section will feature works that focus on the, sometimes intricate or simple, but always beautiful details of London’s buildings.

Highlights include Brendan Neiland’s Broadgate Reflections (1989), an almost abstract close-up of a building reflected in a window, as well as Simon Ling’s vibrant paintings of East London’s urban landscape near his studio.

Graham Packham, Chairman, City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, said:

“’Architecture of London’ will illustrate how the capital is a constant site of construction and renewal, and will provide visitors to Guildhall Art Gallery with an intimate portrait of this restless and vibrant city.

“By bringing together a wide range of artists’ work, the exhibition will certainly prove to be engaging, inspiring and poignant, as we look back at how London has changed since the early 1600s and reflect upon how city planners and architects may transform it over the coming years.”

Elizabeth Scott, Head of Guildhall Galleries and Principal Curator at Guildhall Art Gallery, who curated Architecture of London, said:

“This exhibition celebrates all of London’s wide-ranging architecture - from tower blocks to suburban homes, the iconic, to the non-descript.

“‘Architecture of London’ will offer visitors a unique insight into London’s ever-evolving topography through the eyes of artists who have been, and still are, captivated by the city.”

As part of the six-month exhibition, John Schofield, cathedral archaeologist at St Paul’s Cathedral; Dr Jane Sidell, inspector of Ancient Monuments for Historic England; and Dr David Allen and Dr Simon Elliott, historian and archaeologist respectively, will lead a series of talks on the use of stone, the tradition of bricklaying within London’s architecture, and historical insights from the Great Fire of London.

The Gallery’s Late View will offer a night of music, architecture, art, drawing, and Curator tours of the collection on 27 September from 7pm - 10pm.

Architecture of London forms part of City of London Corporation’s outdoor public events programme, Fantastic Feats: the building of London (31 May – 1 December 2019). The programme will celebrate London’s long-standing history of architectural and engineering firsts, and looks at how these innovations have contributed to improving the lives of Londoners over the centuries.

From 31 May to 1 September, Illuminated River, one of Fantastic Feats’ programme partners, will also exhibit architectural drawings and visualisations of the project alongside paintings of the Thames chosen by American artist Leo Villareal from Guildhall Art Gallery’s collection, as part of Architecture of London.

Led by Villareal and London-based architects, Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, Illuminated River is an unprecedented light artwork that will be installed on up to 15 central London bridges. Once complete, it will be the longest public art commission in the world, seen by over 100 million people a year. The first four bridges – London, Cannon, Southwark, and Millennium – will be unveiled this summer.

From 2 July to 15 July, the City of London Corporation’s London Metropolitan Archives will display blueprints, drawings and photographs recording the development of some of London’s greatest buildings and structures in an outdoor exhibition, London’s Grand Designs – Building a Capital City, 1675 to 1986, in Guildhall Yard.

The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages Guildhall Art Gallery, is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £100m every year.

The City of London Corporation - together with the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of London – is leading the development of Culture Mile between Farringdon and Moorgate, a multi-million-pound investment which will create a new cultural and creative destination for London over the next 10 to 15 years. This includes £110m funding to support the Museum of London’s move to West Smithfield and £4.9m for a detailed business case and next stage development, fundraising, and design work for the proposed Centre for Music.



Notes to editors

City of London Corporation

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile, dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City and supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK.

Guildhall Art Gallery

Established in 1886 as a ‘Collection of Art Treasures worthy of the capital city,' the gallery exhibits work dating from 1670 to the present, including 17th-century portraits, Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces and a range of paintings documenting London's dramatic history. General admission to Guildhall Art Gallery is FREE; however, an entrance fee may be charged for some exhibitions, with concessionary rates for senior citizens, registered unemployed and registered disabled.

Monday - Saturday, 10am - 5pmSunday, 12pm - 4pm

Call 020 7332 3700 / textphone 020 7332 3803 for a daily recorded message or for more information. Email and follow @GuildhallArt

London Metropolitan Archives

London Metropolitan Archives is a public research centre which specialises in the history of London. LMA cares for, and provides access to, the historical archives of businesses, schools, hospitals charities, and many other organisations in, and around, London. With over 100km of books, maps, photographs, films and documents dating back to 1067 in its strong rooms, it is proud to provide access to one of the finest city archives in the world. Its users have a wide range of research interests, including family, community and local history, and LMA also works with students, artists, producers, and architects.

London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R 0HB

Admission FREE, check websites for opening times. Nearest underground stations are Farringdon and Angel.