Sunday 25 August 2013

St Alban, Brooke Street EC1

Hans Feibusch was the Church of England's favourite artist in the post-war years. Not only was he a convert from Judaism, his art had been given the ultimate political seal of approval by inclusion in the Nazi's infamous exhibition of Degenerate Art in 1937.
So when William Butterfield's flamboyantly Victorian church of St Alban was restored after bomb damage, Feibusch was a shoe-in for the decorative commissions. He painted a masterly vision of the Trinity in Glory on the east wall of the chancel, and in 1985 added this aspiring portrait of Jesus being Raised from the Dead. You can feel the energy and joy.
While you are here, pop round the corner and take a look at a rather nice majolica Virgin and Child in the inner courtyard. And, of course, go and see the mural inside the church.

Saturday 17 August 2013

Sienna Buildings, Hatton Garden EC1

These vigorous horses are racing in the palio di Siena, the famous races round the Piazza del Campo in that city. They were made in 1999 by Guy Portelli, who despite the name comes from Kent.
The subject was suggested by the name of the block of flats they were designed for, though in proper British fashion it is spelt Sienna. Naturally, the Italians can't be trusted to spell their own cities correctly (Firenze indeed. Roma? Pshaw!).
Portelli's most recent claim to fame is appearing on BBC TV's inexplicably popular Dragon's Den to raise funding for a series of works called Pop Icon (Grace Jones, Amy Winehouse etc). He showed a remarkable business acumen and flair for negotiation as you can see here.

Saturday 10 August 2013

62 Trafalgar Square WC2

This pair of panels show an ocean liner plowing the Atlantic heading for Canada and a locomotive thundering through the mighty Rockies, images of the latest technology in 1903 when the building was erected.
They look charmingly retro today. The loco with its cowcatcher is so Wild West. The liner is flying a couple of jib sails which must have been a bit antique even then.
The building was, of course, the London showroom and booking office for the Canadian Pacific Railway, which then not only operated the iconic line that united a nation but also had liners to take you there and hotels to put you up when you arrived - an integrated transport system. 
The block is now converted into flats and the penthouse has a terrace behind the parapet from which the owners can revel in one of London's iconic views, taking in Nelson's Column, St Martin in the Fields and the National Gallery. Or they can just sneer at the heaving mass of tourists below.
Currently (2013) it is for sale at just £17 million.

Saturday 3 August 2013

The Intrepid Fox, Wardour Street W1

The Intrepid Fox was Charles James Fox, the Whig politician, controversialist and rake. One of his most vocal supporters was publican Samuel House, who renamed his tavern in honour of his hero (it was originally called the Gravel Pits). It is said that in the 1784 election House offered all patrons who promised to vote for Fox a free pint and a kiss from the Duchess of Devonshire.
The pub was rebuilt in 1915 by W. Bradford & Sons, with a white stone facade. The plaque shows a rather slim Fox with House behind waving an election leaflet proclaiming 'Champion of the People!'.