King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
Stories of Strand-Aldwych

Huntly Maury, The Strand London

Huntly Maury, The Strand London [1]Huntly Maury, The Strand London [1]

Upon being asked to reflect on the pedestrianisation of the Strand, the watercolourist Huntly Maury commented; “the only time I felt at all easy about travelling on my Brompton bike along the Strand was during the original Covid Lockdown! There were only a few of us on the road then!!!”. This comment brings emotional context the image he painted in 1998, ‘The Strand London, Circa 1960’.

In the painting the Strand is a hectic thoroughfare filled with cars, commercial vans and of course several distinctive London buses. The chaotic nature of the scene is undoubtedly tied to the Strand’s central geographic position, being the main artery via which anyone would drive from the business hub of the City to Theatreland in the West-End. The painting’s vanishing point is off East toward the easily recognisable St-Mary-Le-Strand Church. The lines which draw the eye toward the church seem to have been warped slightly, a conscious action to emphasise the chaotic feeling of the traffic filled scene. The few pedestrians present in the foreground seem at risk, the task of crossing the street made to seem highly perilous. No doubt, this is the image in Maury’s head when he thinks of the Street, owing to his perception of danger when sat atop his Brompton bike. This is likely also the image of the Strand that exists in most people’s minds. The Strand as a busy east-west through route for cars and buses has been the most recent chapter in its history. In light of this, the pedestrianisation project feels like a reclamation of the area for those on foot. The reduction of risk in crossing the road will no doubt afford the visitor time to look up at the various sites, such as St-Mary-Le-Strand, as they are no longer required to diligently dodge the seemingly endless stream of motor-traffic.

Maury’s image depicts a time than thirty years in the past, likely generated from a combination of old photos and childhood memory. Looking through Maury’s window into the past encourages the curious mind to cast back further to explore how previous generations of Londoners observed the Strand.


[1] We have copyright permission from the artist. Huntly Maury, The Strand, London, 1998.

 

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