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Exhibition Review – Piranesi drawings: visions of antiquity at the British Museum from 20 Feb 2020 to 9 Aug 2020


The British Museum celebrates the 300th anniversary of Piranesi’s birth in 1720 with an exhibition that includes the Museum’s complete collection of his drawings, all the work of the Piranesi himself.

Neoclassicist printmaker Giovanni Battista Piranesi is best known for his grand depictions of ancient Rome, his recordings of the newly-discovered ruins of Pompeii and displaying his celebrated Carceri (‘Prisons’) series.

Piranesi was born in Venice and raised in Rome, from 1740, he worked in Rome as a draughtsman for Marco Foscarini, the Venetian ambassador of the new Pope Benedict XIV. He often returned to Venice where he was friendly with Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, a leading artist in the city.

In 1748–1774 he created a long series of drawings of the city which established his fame. Piranesi devoted himself to the measurement of many of the ancient ruins and this led to the publication of “Roman Antiquities of the Time of the First Republic and the First Emperors”.

It is the work of Piranesi as a draughtsman, that is the focus of the exhibition and offers viewers the opportunity to scrutinise the drawings in close detail. Within the drawings, Piranesi manages to engender a poetic aspect of the ruins, whilst providing an accurate representation. A number of the views depict human figures whose poverty and human frailties appear to suggest not only the decay of the ruins but of human existence.

These views of antiquity, not only provided a visual record of ruins that often disappeared over time but provided Piranesi with a source of income. Increasingly, these types of views were becoming popular with those on the Grand Tour, Rome became an intellectual capital of Europe and Piranesi catered for these ‘tourists’ with his own print workshop and museum of antiquities.

This fascinating small free exhibition provides some insight into the world of Giovanni Battista Piranesi who provides a record of ancient Rome with the creative ability to make the buildings and geometry come alive. This mix of fantasy and reality was popular amongst a new type of collector who enjoyed the bringing together of the modern and ancient worlds.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended 

For more information and tickets, visit the British Museum website here

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The Bridge Exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands – 27th June to 2nd November


George Davison Reid (1871–1933) Looking north across London Bridge  Pigment print, made 2014, from gelatin silver print, made in the 1920s, bound in album © George Davison Reid/Museum of London.

Bridges are a fundamental part of a Londoner’s life, every day many of them will walk across them or if you travel on the water go underneath them.

However for many centuries there was only one bridge that joined the north to the  south and that was London Bridge, it was the industrial growth  of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries that saw a boom in Bridge Building in London.

It is the recording of this  major growth that forms part of the Bridge exhibition at the  Museum of London Docklands.

Opening on 27 June and running to the 2 November 2014, Bridge at the Museum of London Docklands draws on the museum’s significant art collections. It features rarely seen contemporary and historical artworks, photography and film to chart the visual history of London.

Bridge looks at how London’s bridges allow people to move around and experience the city. It also explores how artists have long sought inspiration from, on and under this city’s magnificent bridges

Undoubtedly the star of the show will be an extremely rare photograph of Hungerford Bridge by William Henry Fox Talbot, one of the major pioneers of photography.


William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) Hungerford Bridge Salt print, made around 1845 – William Henry Fox Talbot.© Museum of London .

This is the original Hungerford footbridge designed and built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which joined Hungerford Market on the north bank of the Thames, and Lambeth on the south. It was demolished in the early 1860s following the sale of the bridge and market to the South Eastern Railway Company, which built a rail crossing with footpaths either side.

Visitors will only able to view the photograph throughout the first month of the exhibition. .

IN9548-Children and a man on Tower Bridge, looking towards Upper

George Davison Reid (1871–1933) Children and a man on Tower Bridge, looking towards Upper Pool  Pigment print, made 2014, from gelatin silver print, made in the 1920s,  © George Davison Reid/Museum of London

IN257 - Lower Pool, with Tower Bridge under construction- Magic

The Upper Pool seen under the Bascules of Tower Bridge Gelatin silver print, made 1929

  © Albert Gravely Linney/Museum of London

Sleep Walk Sleep Talk

Sleep Walk Sleep Talk- Lightbox showing the view from the now demolished London Bridge House across London Bridge Station towards Canary Wharf. Suki Chan 2011. Museum of London

Featured artists include James Abbott McNeill Whistler; Charles Ginner; Christopher Richard Wynn Nevinson; Giovanni Battista Piranesi; William Raban and adventure photographer, Lucinda Grange, amongst others.

Bridge at the Museum of London Docklands features paintings, prints, drawings, etchings, photography and film. The exhibition opens at the Museum of London Docklands on Friday 27 June 2014. Entrance is FREE.