A quick painting tour of Maida Vale, London

21 Feb 1 Comment

What initially brought me to Maida Vale was a painting commission, though while there, I thought I would take the opportunity to learn a bit more about the area and to maybe do a painting or two.

Of course if you are touring any area of London the first ‘stop’ you make is very often the tube station.

Maida Vale tube station incorporates my favourite Oxblood tiles and arches which typify many of the London tube stations. The initial design was developed by Leslie Green though he had died by the time Maida Vale needed to be built, so another architect, Stanley Heaps continued in his place using his previous work as a template.

Maida Vale tube was opened in 1915, and was entirely staffed by women for the first four years. It is always a pleasure popping out of the ground at one of these old tube stations. You KNOW you are in London. You have the same effect in Paris with their elegant Art-Deco Metros.

The station is a bit of a film star too. It has featured in Alfred Hitchcock‘s film ‘Downhill’, ‘Runners’ by Stephen Poliakoff, a video by The Chemical Brothers, and as the fictional station ‘Westbourne Oak’ in the 2014 film ‘Paddington’.

About Maida Vale

Maida Vale is an approximately one square kilometer area situated in West London and I think it’s pretty fair to say that most of it is affluent. Additionally, like most London areas they seemed to have packed quite a bit in.

It is the home of Lords Cricket Ground, a few of the BBC’s main recording studios reside here too, not to mention in the south they have ‘Little Venice’. This being a neighbourhood of a partly tree-lined, three-way junction of canals complete with Regency houses, and converted canal barges. The name ‘Little Venice’ is a recently coined one and has been eagerly taken up by local estate agents who have miraculously expanded the area wider to areas that were previously known as ‘The Paddington Basin’. Mmmm I wonder why?

Although ‘Little Venice’ is nothing like the real Venice it is well worth a visit for the shops and canal side pubs.
The list of notable people who were born and lived in the area is vast. I shall list just a few here.

Who was born in Maida Vale?

• Alan Turing (1912–1954), code-breaker and pioneer of computer science
• David Ben-Gurion (1886–1973), first prime minister of Israel. Born in the same street as Alan Turing oddly enough. I wonder if they knew each other?
• Sir Alec Guinness- actor who played Obi Wan Kenobi! and George Smiley (1914–2000)
• Leslie Green (1875–1908), architect of many of the London Tube Stations

Lived in Maida Vale

• Joe Strummer (1952–2002) of Punk rock band The Clash
• Jarvis Cocker (b. 1963) Singer in the band Pulp
• Björk (b. 1965), Icelandic singer
• Joan Collins (b. 1933) grew up in Maida Vale
• Ruth Rendell (1930–2015), Baroness Rendell of Babergh, the English crime writer
• Bradley Wiggins (b. 1980), Olympic cyclist
• Mohammed Emwazi (1988–2015), alleged executioner for Islamic State known as “Jihadi John” went to St. Mary Magdalene Church of England Primary School.

A painting of Ashworth Mansions

A painting of Ashworth Mansions, Maida Vale, London

The reason I was here of course was for the commission. This being of Ashworth Mansions, just a short work for the Tube Station.

They are a fine row of red brick and stucco Queen Anne revival flats built in 1900 overlooking Paddington Recreation Ground. It was part of a large building programme in the area at the turn of the 19th Century and could well have prompted the building of the Tube station just around the corner.

It was a fine sunny day when I started working on the initial watercolours for this painting and ‘The Gods of Art’ smiled upon me further too as they provided a large recycling bin for me to lean on beneath the shade of a cool Plane Tree. I could hear thr popping of tennis balls in the court behind me too. It was all very peaceful.

Later research tells me, however, that Ashworth Mansions hasn’t always been so peaceful. Just before WW2 there was a murder committed in the mansions, and during the war the blocks were struck by a V1 flying bomb in the summer of 1944 killing six people and seriously injuring 13 others. Among the dead were a nine year old girl and four old age pensioners.

The bomb fell just a few yards from where I was painting. Interestingly, the left hand side of my picture was almost entirely rebuilt in the post war period.

Today it is almost impossible to believe that this happened.

A sketch 3 of Ashworth Mansions, Maida Vale, LondonA painting of Ashworth Mansions, Maida Vale, London Sketch 1

Initial visuals above.

A painting of Le Cochonnet and Avalon Flowers

A painting of Le Cochonnet and Avalon Flowers in Maida Vale, London.

Once I had finished my visuals of Ashworth mansions I wandered down Elgin Avenue for a bite to eat.
A short walk away, I came across an Italian place behind Avalon flowers. I was intrigued as to why an Italian restaurant would have the French Name Le Cochonnet (The Piglet). I never did find out.

It was a lovely place, just right for a sunny afternoon. I sat outside to muse through the menu. I eventually went for the ‘ Social Grazing Platter’. It has loads of salami, vegetables, Buffalo Mozzarella with plenty of other goodies packed in too. I think it is meant for two people, though I had the lot to myself washed down with a bottle of sparking water.

Once I had done, I noticed I had a few hours left before I needed to head back. I was too full to move, so I lumped onto a bench to paint the wedge that is Le Cochonnet to the left with Avalon flowers sitting in front. It ended a fine day.

I enjoyed my time in Maida Vale. So much so, I have promised myself to return one day to paint The Paddington Basin, or is it Little Venice?

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