London: Art, Architecture, Literature & People
London is one of the richest cities in the world for its fascinating history. In this course we will explore some of the people and events that have helped make that history so rich, using the art, architecture and literature associated with the city as our guide.
Amongst other things, we will discover why England’s greatest architect died alone and forgotten amid the ruins of one of his greatest creations. How poets and novelists have found the river and narrow medieval street pattern of London so inspiring. And, why a disagreement over the colour blue once caused a fight amongst radical artists at the Cafe Royal. More discreditable histories will emerge too, from anti-semitism in the East End, to London’s role in the Atlantic slave trade, both of which had a profound impact on the culture of London.
The approach in our classroom discussions will be interdisciplinary, using a variety of sources to explore and understand the history of London from a cultural perspective, investigating how many of its key buildings and institutions came into existence, and discovering some of the notable figures that gave life to a city that has been described by Stephen Fry, as ‘proudly barbaric, but deeply civilised’.
This course will comprise eighteen lunchtime sessions held in the classroom at Imperial College, South Kensington. At the end of the course students will also have the opportunity to attend one Saturday afternoon session visiting Temple, in Fleet Street, to see the changing face of London over the centuries.
The programme is arranged more or less chronologically around 18 objects, buildings or places.
- Head of Hadrian (British Museum)
- Anglo-Saxon Cross (All Hallows Barking, EC3R 5BJ)
- St Bartholomew the Great Church (Smithfield, EC1A 7JQ)
- Middle Temple Hall (Temple, EC4Y 7BB)
- John Dee's Crystal (Science Museum)
- Thomas Wyck, Whitehall and St James’s Park (Bank of England Museum)
- Hubert Le Sueur, Charles I (Trafalgar Square)
- Nicholas Stone, John Donne (St Paul’s Cathedral)
** Christmas break **
- The Monument (London Bridge, EC3R 8AH)
- Egbert van Heemskerck II, St Bartholomew's Fair, Smithfield (Museum of London)
- Samuel Scott, A View of the Thames with the York Buildings (Tate Britain)
- Thomas Colman Dibdin, Crystal Palace in Hyde Park (Museum of London)
- Strawberry Hill (Twickenham, TW1 4ST)
- James Hayllar, Granville Sharp Rescuing a Slave, 1864 (V&A Museum)
- John Belcher, Electra House (84 Moorgate, EC2M 6SQ)
- Camille Pissarro, Fox Hill, Norwood (National Gallery, London)
- David Bomberg, Ghetto Theatre (Ben Uri Art Gallery)
- Eric Gill, Ariel and Prospero (Broadcasting House, W1A 1AA)
In addition: One Saturday half-day trip to Temple (date to be arranged)
Please note this programme is indicative and is subject to possible change
There is no required reading for this course, and it is very difficult to recommend a single text.
You might enjoy some very personal views of London, such as London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd. Alternatively, try London Rising: The Men Who Made Modern London, by Leo Hollis.
About the tutor
Dr Michael Paraskos is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and also teaches art history at the City and Guilds of London School of Art. Michael is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction and has published very widely on art of this period, as well as reviewing exhibitions and novels for BBC Radio 4’s Front Row and The Spectator magazine. His novel In Search of Sixpence was published in 2016.
Questions regarding the content and teaching of this course should be addressed to the course tutor, Dr Michael Paraskos, PRIOR to enrolment.