Friday, 19 February 2010

1 Wigmore Street W1

For years I have secretly loved this putti orchestra, and felt ashamed. It is everything that modern art critics despise - representational, cutesy and the worst sort of fake - a 20th century pastiche of the Georgian style.
But now I find that it is by Art Deco hero Gilbert Bayes, so it's OK to admire it!
The second surprise is that Bayes used his usual concrete and not the stucco that I had assumed, though they are covered in so many layers of paint it is impossible to see.
It seems that the orchestra and the pair of ladies on either side of the door date from 1925 when John Brinsmead & Co, the piano makers, converted it into a showroom. Brinsmead had gone bust in 1920 after the workers went on strike and had been bought by rivals Cramer, who clearly wanted to make what had been the side of the house into something grander.

They are unusual for Bayes. Did he do them under the influence of Rex Whistler, who was just beginning to make waves at the time, or for a bit of fun, or because he needed the money?

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