Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Kingly Street, London

Mr and Mrs Atlas

Here’s a brief post as I wrestle with a deadline.

There are whole books about looking up in London, and rightly so: you miss a lot if you don’t. A chance glance when hurrying along Kingly Street in search of congenial friends in a pub led me to stop briefly and take a photograph of these figures through the gloom of dusk. They remind me of those baroque atlases – common in central European cities like Prague – that seem to strain to hold up doorways in grand city houses. I’ve noticed them in London too, in particular in a very studied baroque revival facade in Mortimer Street.

Here the figures are on a more modest frontage, with lots of glazed tiles. It’s almost as if the architect threw in a bit of baroquery as visual relief and to stop the frontage looking like a kitchen. It’s a standard assemblage – swags (heavy), scrolls (curvaceous), date stone (bulgy). And the figures: male and female supporters straining at their job and somewhat squashed-looking, but with enough space to stick their elbows out and their knees up, as if to support the swags. A neat and confident bit of decoration from 1911, in defiance of the Cubism, Futurism, and abstraction that were bursting out everywhere in the visual arts. Tradition still had its place.

1 comment:

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

This at once reminded me of the now rather dirty dark pink terracotta boys holding up the entablature on Porth library, Rhondda. A lot of swags and Neo-Baroque decoration of the 1900-1914 period up and down the South Wales Valleys - I keep meaning to take photographs.