Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Cityscape: modern perspectives on London

I normally stick pretty much to drawing and painting on this blog - however now and again I'm happy to include photography.  This post is about cityscapes and a recent competition run by the National Gallery in conjunction with Flickr to try and capture London in a photograph. 

The cityscape

A cityscape is a view - typically represented by a drawing, painting or photograph - of a city.  The cityscape is the urban equivalent of the landscape.  It's also known as the townscape although this tends to denote differences in the size and significance of the urban environment rather than the size and significance of the artwork.

There have been a number of artists particularly renowned for cityscape scenes.  They include Wenceslas Holler - who was renowned for his views of London - and Canaletto and the Italian verdute painters.  Canaletto of course visited London and lived her for a period of years and painted scenes up and down the Thames.

The Thames and the City of London from Richmond House (1747) - by Canaletto
We are probably most used to thinking of cityscapes as skylines and outlines - with the shape of the buildings characterising the nature of the city. 

Modern Perspectives on London
To coincide with the exhibitions Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals and Modern Perspectives, the National Gallery invited you to contribute your own modern perspective of a cityscape to the Modern Perspectives Flickr competition group – inspired by Ben Johnson, Clive Head and Canaletto.
You can see the Modern Perspectives competition winners here.

I contacted Bob Lambourne, one of the winners, who had produced a photo which both appealed to me and at the same time intrigued me.

Thames Sunrise by Bob Lambourne
(courtesy of Bob Lambourne)
This is a view I'm really familiar with.  I worked for three years in an office over looking the Thames just the other side of this bridge.  Every time I walk past - on the Thames Path on the South Bank of the Thames, I look at it and think about how to do it - and Bob has answered the question!  Now I know where I was going wrong - I keep walking past at and looking at the wrong time of day!

I contacted Bob for permission to use his photo on his blog and found a bit more about how he produced it.  Here's what he had to say
I had got up really early one Saturday morning to capture the light of dawn on the river, it must have been about 6.30 am when I took the picture using a Canon 5D with a 28mm lens. I haven't done much more other than a few tweaks to the curves and levels in photoshop. The picture was hand-held (I hate lugging tripods around with me, they make me feel so conspicuous.

In case you are interested the picture has also been selected to appear in "The Spirit of London" a commemorative book presented to every Olympic and Para-Olympic athlete at the London 2012 games by Mayor Boris Johnson.

I am not a professional photographer and work as a graphic designer in the marketing sector. I discovered my passion for the art back in the 80's when I took a 4 year photography course at night school in the days when the ILEA and GLC were still around. 

I guess the best quote on photography and the one that sums me up is:

"I take photographs with love, so I try to make them art objects. But I take them for myself first and foremost - that is important." Jaques Henri Lartigue
You can see the other photographs which were entered in the competition in the Flickr Group Pool.  For some, the notion that it was about London got a little bit lost in the translation!

You can also buy prints of this photo from Bob.  Try contacting him via his Flickr Account boberator or his website or


Monday, 4 April 2011

Places to paint: Paul Nash and the Wittenham Clumps

I'd like to draw your attention to a brilliant website.  It's one of a kind.  However I think its scope and design might work very well for other websites about landscape painters and the places they paint.

Paul Nash and the Wittenham Clumps

Paul Nash and the Wittenham Clumps is totally devoted to one painter and one place.
  • The artist is Paul Nash (1889-1946)- one of the UK'sleading landscape painters.
  • The place is the Wittenham Clumps.  These are two chalk hills which are crowned by the oldest planted hilltop beeches in England.  They rise above the the flat landscape of South Oxfordshire and are apparently visible for miles around.
100 years ago this year UK landscape painter, Paul Nash , discovering the Wittenham Clumps and what he saw as a magical landscape.

From 1911 he proceeded to paint them on a periodic basis throughout his career as an artist

Take a look at the website and the amazing level of effort which has gone into recording a unique relationship between painter and landscape. It's extremely well done and provides a unique perspective on the development of an artist's work in relation to one landscape motif.

You can see:
The website is a project by Anna Dillon and Christopher Baines.   I've been corresponding with Anna and found out that they met due to a shared passion for the work of Paul Nash, plus they both live near the Wittenham Clumps in Oxfordshire.

To celebrate the centenary of Paul Nash's connection with this landscape, they made this new website in order to explore the many paintings he made in the area and also to encourage people to visit the area. The project has been supported by North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

I've certainly been encouraged to visit next time I'm in the area!