During our visit to the Courtauld Gallery the week before Christmas, two paintings particularly caught my attention. They were of a couple of my favourite buildings in north London.
The first was this painting of Hawksmoor’s Christ Church in Spitalfields by Leon Kossoff. It’s one of several paintings he created during the 1980’s and 90’s of this beautiful white church designed by the eccentric English Baroque architect.
Christ Church Spitalfields, Early Summer (1992) by Leon Kossof
It’s painted in his characteristic style, like that of his friend Frank Auerbach, with the paint applied very thickly and in a way so that the form of the building and details of the picture can only really be appreciated by standing back.
London is where Kossoff, the son of a Ukrainian immigrant, was born, grew up and worked in the capital, and scenes from the city are one of the main the main themes in his work.
The second work was by Auerbach – born in Berlin of Jewish parentsin 1931 who fled to England in 1939. Although it only showed a small section of the building, again with thick impasto paint which meant it was difficult to perceive detail, I immediately recognised it as the Art Deco former Carreras Cigarette Factory on Mornington Crescent
Carreras Factory at Mornington Crescent (1961) by Frank Auerbach
Another short trip to London this week. On business this time, but I found some time to seek out an Art Deco masterpiece a short walk from Euston Station.
The former Carreras cigarette factory was built in 1926-28 on what had been a semi-circular park on Mornington Crescent. Obliterating the green space in front of a Georgian crescent would probably not be allowed in this day and age, but it clearly wasn’t a problem in the 1920’s!
The architects were Marcus Evelyn Collins and Owen Hyman Collins with A G Porri and Partners as consultant. The Egyptian style of the building was fashionable at the time, following the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 by Howard Carter.
Production ceased in 1959 and the building was converted into offices and many of it’s distinctive features removed. But it was renovated in the late 1990’s and most of the original decoration was recreated.
It’s a massive building and impossible to get a shot that includes all of it, but there is a photograph of the factory and it’s environs here.
There are 10 columns in the central bays with Egyptian style decoration
Two giant black cats flank the entrance (the black cat was used as a logo by the cigarette company)
There are cat motifs high up below the upper storey windows
And the name of the original occupants is spelled out in “Egyptian style” lettering
There’s more info and photographs here, here and here.