Sunday, October 23, 2016

Oil painting of the City of London before the Great Fire

The Museum of London has a very rare topographical oil painting of the view of the City of London from Southwark on the south bank of the Thames. It's very rare because it was painted BEFORE the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the City in 1666.

In fact it's one of only three known to be still in existence.  The other two paintings are at Chatsworth House and the Society of Antiquaries.

View of London from Southwark c.1630
in its frame at the Museum of London
It's thought to be a Dutch painting, probably produced around 1630 of the City of London as it was around about 1600 or shortly thereafter. Testing of the painting has tentatively dated the panel to 1625-1655.

The view is from Southwark - which is the area of London to the south of London Bridge - which is the bridge in the painting.

It's a topographical painting which may have been done from the top of of the tower of Southwark Cathedral with a few adjustments to get everything in!

I'm a big fan of the topographical tradition found within the paintings and prints of the past.  To my mind topographical painting is one of the greatly under-rated aspects of landscape painting and art in general.  These add to our body of knowledge of what our landscape and towns and cities looked like in the past.

To my mind it's a great pity that more landscape painters of today don't focus on recording the landscape. It's as if the invention of photography eliminated topographical painting - apart from those done by the urban sketchers of course!

Below are some closeups of different parts of the painting...

...however, first here's a Guide to the various buildings which can be clearly seen in the painting.

You need to right click and open this image in a new tab to see it full size and read the annotations

Guide to the buildings in the painting of the City of London c.1600

The Old St Paul's Cathedral

You can't see the St Paul's Cathedral we know today in the painting because of course it was built after the Great Fire had burned down the one in the painting.

What you can see is the old St Paul's Cathedral (built between 1087 and 1314) - at the top of Ludgate hill. If you look at the area around the current cathedral you can see where the walls of the old cathedral are marked out on the paving.

Old St Paul's Cathedral at the top of Ludgate Hill
Old St Paul's Cathedral at the top of Ludgate Hill

In the foreground, on the left is Baynard's Castle by the river - it was destroyed by the Great Fire and never rebuilt. It was situated on the site of the Puddle Dock offices of KPMG where I used to work!

The Tower of London

The Tower of London is very clear towards the right edge of the painting - plus the loop of the Thames around Rotherhithe and the Isle of Dogs.  The perspective on this side of the painting is somewhat compressed! I spent some time recently trying to spot where my home is...

Tower of London and St Olave's Church in Southwark

On the South Bank in Southwark is the stone built church of St Olave which was mentioned in the Domesday Book (when it was a timber church).

This is another special location for me as I used to work in the Health Authority HQ offices right next door in the mid 80s.

The Four Theatres on the South Bank

Many people will know that the National Theatre is now located on the South Bank.  What fewer people know is that the South bank of the Thames used to be home to four theatres in the 17th century.

In the part of the painting below, which shows the foreground of the painting - and the South bank in Southwark - you can see the four Theatres. Each has a flag flying above it. From left to right are

  • the Swan Theatre (built 1595), 
  • Hope Theatre (built 1613-14 on the site of an old bear garden), 
  • Rose Theatre (built in 1587 nearer the Thames) and 
  • the Globe Theatre (opened 1599).  The Globe Theatre has of course been rebuilt due to the project started by Sam Wanamaker.

What's special about the theatres are that they help to date this painting.

The Swan, Hope, Rose and Globe Theatres c.1660
The Swan, Hope, Rose and Globe Theatres c.1660

The Traitors' Heads

At the Southwark end of London Bridge was the place where the tar-soaked heads of traitors who had been beheaded were put on spikes above the bridge’s stone gatehouse - as a warning. This is clearly illustrated in the painting. Note the disparity between the size of the heads on the spikes and the size of the people in the street below!  One of the important aspects of topographical paintings is you can never quite trust the relative dimensions!

William Wallace, the Scottish Patriot who was executed in Smithfield was the first recorded head to be displayed on London Bridge in 1305. The practice of spiking Traitors Heads ended in 1678 - so was very much normal practice at the time of the painting.

Other people whose heads ended up spiked on this gatehouse included Thomas More (1478 – 1535),  Guy Fawkes (1570 – 1606) and Oliver Cromwell (1599 – 1658).

Traitors Heads on London Bridge

and finally...... why it's very special to me

This painting is pretty special to me because "he who must not be bored while I sketch" was the person who facilitated it finding a home in the Museum of London. In my home it's referred to as "his painting"!

The painting was found in the archives of a London Borough's Reference Library. It was realised that if it were an original it might be pretty special. My other half led on "what needs to happens next" for the Council. Professional advice was taken, negotiations were undertaken and due process was followed. The eventual happy outcome was that the painting is now in the ownership, care and protection of the Museum of London for the interest and enjoyment of all those who visit the Museum to learn about the history of London.

Why don't you see if you can find it next time you pay a visit? It's in the Tudor section.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize 2017: Call for Entries

This an overview of the Call for Entries for the 2017 Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize which has a first prize of £15,000 and two prizes for young artists.

This prestigious and well regarded art competition for painting and drawing has two aims:
  • to encourage the very best creative representational painting and 
  • to promote the skill of draughtsmanship
View of some of the prizewinners in the 2016 competition
I like this art competition a lot. The selectors typically stay on brief and it attracts some excellent artwork from a wide range of artists - both experienced and emerging

I've also been following it for long enough now to know that it's very often a competition which picks out young artists who become extremely well known and successful in the years that follow (You can see my review posts for this competition in previous years (back to 2008) listed at the end of this post)

All entries are digital in the first instance with works selected for exhibition from a second round of judging of the actual artwork.

The deadline for entries is Monday 19th December 2016 at 5pm (17:00 GMT).

Approximately 100 paintings are selected for exhibition and all works are for sale.
The exhibition will be held at the Mall Galleries opening 6th March 2017 and closing on 18th March 2017. It will be open daily 10am to 5pm with free admission - and always gets a good attendance.

Below you can see my overview of the Call for Entries.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Pastel Society - a final Call for Entries

Did you know that if you work in pastels, oil pastels, charcoal, pencil, conte, sanguine, or any dry media you can submit work to open annual exhibition of The Pastel Society?

Below is an overview of the details for those wanting to submit work to The Pastel Society (PS) Annual Exhibition 2017 at the Mall Galleries.

You have three weeks to get a submission together if you want to enter.

The deadline for your digital entry is Friday 4 November 2016, 12 noon

At the end of this post are links to past exhibitions which I've reviewed on this blog so you can see what sort of work gets exhibited by members and those selected from the open entry.

A panoramic view of the Private View of the 2016 Pastel Society Exhibition at the Mall Galleries


Who is eligible?

  • This is an OPEN exhibition and is not limited to work by members
  • Any artist over 18 may submit. 
  • There is no restriction of where you live and the exhibition often has works exhibited by people who live overseas.  The exhibition is open to artists in the UK, EU, and outside the EU.

Artists who are not resident in the UK but are resident in the EU are welcome to submit work. If your work is sold at the exhibition you have a responsibility to register and account for UK VAT with H.M. Revenue & Customs. Artists submitting work from outside the UK and EU must be registered BEFORE they submit online.
View of a corner of the exhibition in 2016

What media and images are eligible?

Eligible media

  • Pastels, oil pastels, charcoal, pencil, conte, sanguine, or any other dry media are all acceptable media.
  • I must confess I'm always surprised by the oil pastels. If the new watercolour sticks or the art marker sticks called them pastels would that mean that they too became eligible media? For me personally, the criteria ought to strictly limit artwork to dry media in all its various forms.

Eligible images

  • Works should not be larger than 2.4m (7.8 feet) along the longest dimension.
  • Work must have been:
    • completed during the twelve months prior to the exhibition and 
    • not have been exhibited elsewhere.
  • Number of works:
    • Maximum of six works submitted. 
    • Maximum of four works selected.
  • Minimum price: £300.

Submission: key dates and points to note

The Call for Entries for the Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2017 can be found on the Mall Galleries website. This includes details of the numerous prizes on offer.

The website ALSO has the FULL Terms and Conditions for all 'Calls for Entries' for exhibitions at the Mall Galleries
  • ALL work must be submitted online at
  • You must complete the registration form and upload your digital image (in JPEG format and no bigger than 1MB) no later than Friday 4 November 2016, 12 noon when registration closes.
  • The submission fee is £15 per work (£10 per work for artists aged 35 or under) - with no further hanging fee.
  • CHECK if your work has passed the digital screening by logging on from Friday 11th November 12 noon.  
  • If pre-selected you now have two months to get your work framed prior to delivery for the second round of selection.
  • IF PRE-SELECTED you need to deliver your work for the second round of the selection process
    • Works should be delivered unwrapped with forms and labels.
    • Artists sending work from abroad should use a picture carrier.
    • Deliver your work on the Receiving Day - Saturday 7th January 2017 between 10am - 5pm.
  • Selection takes place on Monday 9th January 2017.
  • CHECK if your work has been selected for exhibition on Tuesday 10 January, from 12 noon.
  • Be prepared to collect unaccepted work on Thursday 12th January 10am - 5pm
Drawings in Charcoal at the 2016 exhibition

TIPS for potential entrants

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Who's made a mark on art 161016?

I'd like to say a very sincere "Thank YOU" to all the people who wrote lovely comments on my Retirement post and on Facebook and especially to those who sent me personal messages via email. (You can write to me any time - my email is in the right hand column. However I'm afraid I can't help at all with some queries - and I do get some weird ones - and consequently I now typically only reply to those I can help.)

I'd also like to remind people that I'm not disappearing off the face of the earth and am just going to be blogging less on Making A Mark in future as I do rather more of what I particularly like doing!

So what happened in my first week?

I visited six museums/galleries and went to five exhibitions - and I haven't done that in a LONG time!

Sunday 2nd October - South Bank - Tate Modern and Bankside Galleries

We visited Bankside on Sunday and went up the Switch House for the first time to see what the fuss was about the Viewing Gallery. One nearby resident made it very clear what the problem was (see below). Frankly given there is no view on that corner - except into people's flats - I don't understand why they can't install opaque glass on that corner which causes the problems

One resident's perspective on The Switch House Viewing Gallery!

Tuesday 4th October - my official Birthday Treat Day!

On Tuesday morning I went to see Georgia O'Keeffe at Tate Modern - which I'd been saving up for a treat. I definitely recommend this and I'm going to be going back at least once before it finishes on 30th October.

This is the Georgia O'Keeffe: Room Guide for those who have missed it (it's not obvious!)

You can also Download the large print guide [PDF, 822Kb] - which provides details of all the paintings on display.

Note to self: I must remember to take advantage of the members hours (on 15 Oct 2016, 16 Oct 2016, 22 Oct 2016, 23 Oct 2016, 29 Oct 2016, 30 Oct 2016) when it opens before it's open to the public.  I didn't get there early enough and it was swamped with school children on trips - all sat or stood around drawing - which is great but it makes it very difficult to navigate between paintings! I almost wish they would have a day each week when it's just school children....

We then had lunch at the Club Gascon in Smithfields. I drew all my courses but have still to finish colouring them. Here's one of the courses...

Marbled Duck, Figs, Maury & Pickled Mirabelle
pen and ink and coloured pencils
On Tuesday afternoon I found the Early Physic Garden I'd been searching for at the back of the Barber-Surgeon's Hall in the City of London and then went to see the earliest painting of the City of London in oil (i.e. pre-Great Fire) at the Museum of London which I'll post about later.

Wednesday 5th October - Picasso Portrait at the National Portrait Gallery

Wednesday morning  was the Press View for Picasso Portraits at the National Portrait GalleryHere's a taster and I'll be writing more about this soon. Reviews include:

Portrait prints and a painting by Picasso at the National Portrait Gallery
I then went down to the Mall Galleries for lunch and to view the annual exhibition of the Royal Society of Marine Artists at the Mall Galleries (see Royal Society of Marine Artists Annual Exhibition 2016) - which celebrated their 50th anniversary of their Royal Charter. It was nice to see an art society filling all three galleries again as they used to do when I first started visiting the Mall Galleries. So much more to see and appreciate!

Friday 7th October - Maria Merian's Butterflies at the Queen's Gallery

I then took a breather on Thursday before visiting the Maria Merian Butterflies exhibition at the Queen's Gallery on Friday. You can read my REVIEW: Maria Merian's Butterflies and what I learned about Merian's techniques in terms of collecting her natural history and botanical specimens and how she created a luxury version of both paintings and book for a select audience. Maria Sibylla Merian  was a very smart woman when it came to marketing her artwork!

Maria Merian's Butterflies and
a rare counterproof edition of Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium
(the Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname)
......and that was the first week!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Top botanical artists by country

Yesterday I published a NEW website page on Botanical Art and Artists.

Plus I rejigged the Botanical Art Exhibitions Page so that the links to
are BOTH now at the top of the Exhibitions page.

After all, these are two major international exhibitions that most botanical artists hope to get selected for and do well in.

The new page lists:
  • all the Hunt International Exhibitions of Botanical Art and Illustration to date (1964-2016) - with the dates, number of artworks, number of participating artists and how many countries were represented
  • lists all the artists by COUNTRY who have participated in the Hunt International Exhibitions of Botanical Art and Illustration in the last 15 years (2001-2016). 

Hunt International Exhibitors by Country: Completing the Listing

I'll be completing the list of the artists by country to include all those who exhibited between 1964 and 1998 when I've received the country data from the Hunt Institute of Botanical Documentation. I should have it complete by the end of this year.

In the meantime if anybody wants to have their name added in please tell me your name and country and which year you exhibited and I'll check you were an exhibitor with the Cumulative Index and then include your name on the list.

I've already added one artist to the list since it was published!

To get your name added just leave a comment on this blog post OR email me (see the side column for details of how) OR complete the form on this page).

Comments on the exhibition metrics.

Having reviewed the metrics for all the exhibitions to date, it struck me that there have been three distinct phases to these triennial exhibitions over the years in terms of how many artworks and artists are on display and how many countries had artists representing them.
  • 1964 -197: BIG - lots of artists from 20+ countries participated in the early exhibitions which typically included 300+ artworks
  • 1988 - 2010: LARGE - Between 60 and 90 artists participated in each exhibition. Typically there were always more artworks than artist (between 90 and 100 artworks on display) meaning that some artists had more than one artwork on display. Artists represented between 11 and 18 countries
  • 2013-2016: SELECT - the exhibitions are now much smaller (c. 40+ artworks by c.40+ artists) with each artist having just one artwork on display. Consequently the number of countries represented each year is also smaller.

Top Countries for Botanical Art

I totalled the number of artists for the top five countries. In the period 2010-2016, the five countries with the most artists exhibiting at the last six of the Hunt International Exhibitions of Botanical Art and Illustration are:
  1. USA - 100 artists
  2. UK (England) - 85 artists (Scotland and Wales are counted separately)
  3. Japan - 57 artists
  4. Australia - 36 artists
  5. Italy - 14 artists

This is by way of a challenge to all those countries and national botanical art societies which are developing their body of botanical artists! To get exhibited at the top shows you first have to develop the interest, knowledge, competence and skills - and then you have to apply! :)

The 15th International Exhibition of Botanical Art and Illustration

The 15th International Exhibition of Botanical Art and Illustration is being held in 2016 - and I was supposed to be visiting right up until the point when I tore the meniscus in my knee!

I should be there right now with those attending the ASBA Annual Meeting and Conference in Pittsburgh.

The exhibition includes 43 artworks by 43 artists who are citizens of 15 countries - listed below. (I've included photos of those artists I've photographed winning Gold Medal at the RHS Botanical Art Shows)


  • Laurie Andrews 
  • Helen Burrows 
  • Jean Dennis 
  • Pauline Dewar
  • Anne Hayes 
  • Angela Lober
  • Lauren Sahu-Khan 
  • Sandra Sanger 
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