RA Summer Exhibition – In Search of Soane

RA Summer Exhibition – In Search of Soane

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As ever the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition has so many exhibits on display that I would defy anyone to go there and not find something they liked. This year there is a big emphasis on crossover between art and architecture and this produced my favourite work, a lightbox by Emily Allchurch called “Grand Tour: In Search of Soane (after Gandy)” It’s a homage to a painting by Georgian artist Joseph Michael Gandy called ‘A Selection of Public and Private buildings’ Parts according to Sir John Soane’s projects RA. FSA., for the metropolis and other places of the United Kingdom between 1780 and 1815’ which depicts the work of the architect Sir John Soane as if they were models in Soane’s own house. Although it is a very unusual painting – with great buildings like the Bank of England turned into an unlikely dolls house, Gandy was work was intended as a sort of sales brochure for Soane’s work.

Emily Allchurch has brought the painting up to date by using her own photographs of  Soane’s buildings, some with graffiti, some with street signs. By bringing the picture up to date it highlights the long lasting appeal of Soane’s brand of classicism, which, while it has often gone out of fashion, keeps returning to fashion. Soane was always hoping for some immortality with his buildings. Here is Gandy’s curious picture of The Bank of England as a ruin.

Joseph Gandy, cut away perspective drawing of the Bank of England as a ruin, 1830, John Soane Museum, London from wikimedia Commons


Gandy is drawing comparisons with the ruins of ancient Rome that he and Soane had seen on the Grand Tour, and Bank of England that he hoped would still be standing as a revered ruin in two thousand years time.

Soane’s final legacy was the tomb he designed for his wife and himself that stands in St Pancras Old Churchyard. This went on to have another lease of life, inspiring another famous London building – you can find out which one on my walk All Change at Kings Cross on 13th June.

The RA Summer exhibition lasts until  18th August.  Look out for a new Footprints of London Walk looking at how artists and writers have fictionally destroyed London in October.


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