In this commission I was asked to paint Parliament Square and the Houses of Parliament in London. I lived in London for almost a quarter of a century, picking-up all the cynicism big city living can give you. However, on returning here, I get quite a kick from all those red buses, black taxis, and, of course, Big Ben…

Yes. When it comes to Parliament Square, everyone is a tourist.

The Houses of Parliament are not as old as it looks. The previous building was destroyed by fire in 1834. And in 1835 a competition was held to find a replacement.

The competition was won by Charles Barry. As part of his bid, Barry suggested a Gothic Revival style to fit in with the surrounding architecture. As the construction went ahead, Augustus Pugin was recruited to design much of the interior.

As it was built by the Victorians to administer their global empire, the result is spectacular. You couldn’t fail to be impressed by this vast neogothic structure. Opposite Big Ben, you will find the sycophantically named Victoria Tower, which in its day, it was one of the tallest buildings in the world.

Working on the painting of Parliament Square

Watercolour paintings of Big Ben

The client specifically requested that I include the statue of Nelson Mandela in my painting. Fortunately, Mandela sits in the opposite corner to Big Ben which gave me a very keen angle to work from. So, I began my small watercolours from the southwestern corner of the square.

A painting of Parliament Square, and the House of Parliament in London

Other statues in Parliament Square:

The Statue of Winston Churchill

This is, of course, Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, and probably needs little introduction.

Churchill was a towering figure in British history, was Prime Minister during WWII. A writer, orator, and strategist, he remains celebrated for his vital role in defeating tyranny and his lasting impact on the world stage. He looks rather stern on his plinth, although he was known to have a good sense of humour.

Oliver Cromwell

Now, one chap I thought would have had absolutely no sense of humour whatsoever was the Puritan Oliver Cromwell, but in my research, it turns out I was wrong.

He could be quite amusing, at one time he throwing a party which ended up in a pillow fight! I can’t quite imagine it though, especially since he and his cohorts chopped the head off Charles I after a brief trial for treason.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey, a venerable Gothic masterpiece with origins dating back to the 13 century under the kingship of Henry III. It has witnessed coronations, royal weddings, and notable burials, including monarchs, poets, and scientists.

Its stunning architecture, characterised by pointed arches and intricate stained glass, inspires awe, and contributes to the Abbey’s UNESCO World Heritage Site status. There is also a Poets’ Corner that pays homage to Britain’s literary giants.

Personally speaking, I think its finest feature is this wonderful rose window. If you’re really keen on it, you can go into the Abby gift shop and buy a copy in the form of a drink coaster.

In conclusion

After a few hours work I’ve got a couple of colour notes and some complimentary drawings and some photographs as well. This was more than enough to work in the studio for the final painting.


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