Another chance to see paintings by Cyril Mann (1911-1980) arrives with the London Art Fair in mid-January. The collection, recently exhibited at Piano Nobile gallery, shows a battered, crater-strewn Shoreditch, depicted by the artist in the early 1950s.
Today, the area is populated with tech startups and buzzing with digital industry. But 60 years ago, the streets around the 'Silicon Roundabout' of Old Street were scarred from wartime bombing. Mann found inspiration in the ruins, drenching them (and there is no other word) in sun light.
It's that very sunlight that suggests locations of some of the works. Here's the title piece: Bombsites Around Paul Street:
From the shadows and knowledge of Paul Street (on which Londonist Towers is located) this view has to be looking either north-east or north west. A bit of detective work in Google Street View and, hey presto, we think this is the view today.
An impressionistic depiction of the building on the extreme right can be seen in Mann's painting. The rest of the scene has changed beyond recognition, with construction of the silver prefab building and the 'Hitchcock's reel' sculpture at the centre of this weird non-roundabout.
Another painting by Mann is fairly easy to pinpoint. Here's his stunning view of a war-ravaged Moor Lane in 1948.
The dome of St Paul's rises in the background, while the tower of St Giles' Cripplegate stands in the middle distance. Today, the view is vastly different. Construction of the Barbican Estate obscured the dome and church. Everywhere else is glass. By coincidence an empty development site on the right recalls the crater-strewn landscape depicted by Mann.
We finish with a scene for you to identify. This 1956 painting is called 'Bombsites Around Spitalfields'. One of the area's many rail bridges spans the street ahead, and what is presumably the spire of Christ Church Spitalfields rises on the left. But which street are we on?