Over the centuries, the City of London has collected some massive paintings of the city and its events, and now an exhibition shows off these monumental sized works of art.

The collection on display reflects the attitudes of the times they were collected. The Victorians only wanted grand spectacles, the pomp and ceremony the city is famous for, while these days more socially broadminded art is sought, such as the huge recently donated pieces that show council tower blocks in their shabby state of decay.

For all their scale, many of the paintings reward close inspection.

A large painting of Fleet Street in the 1930s, showing the industry of the newspapers being printed is apparently unfinished as was supposed to have portraits of the top newspaper owners in it and was commissioned by Viscount Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail. The painting is said to be unfished as Rothermere removed it after the artist added Rothermere’s hated rival, Lord Beaverbrook to the commission.

If you notice people paying very close attention to two paintings of Guildhall dinners, both by Terence Cueno, it’s because they’re looking for a mouse. Every Cueno painting contains a mouse somewhere in them to be discovered. As these paintings of Guildhall events are vast, while the mouse is small, it can take a while to find the mouse.

I won’t say where the mouse is, suffice to say that the statues are a good place to look, and I’d say the mouse is slightly easier to find in the painting on the left, and then you might know what to look for in the other painting.

A side room contains fragments of a huge painting, that once filled the entire ceiling of a large room in the Guildhall, but was destroyed during WWII. Just these few, still fairly large, fragments survive of a painting by Sir James Thornhill that rivalled the Painted Hall in Greenwich.

At the rear of the gallery is a painting that’s not part of the exhibition as it’s permanently on show here. In fact, so large is it that there are few other places it could go, and the atrium it is housed in was specially built for it.

It’s a mix of an exhibition defined more by the size of the canvas, but that then gives it an eclectic appeal, from obviously Victorian paintings to the modern style.

The exhibition, The Big City: London painted on a grand scale is at the Guildhall Art Gallery until 23rd April 2023.

Entry is free, with donations appreciated.

The Guildhall Art Gallery is open daily 10:30am to 4pm and is also free to visit.

Exhibition Rating


Guildhall Art Gallery and Roman Amphitheater
Guildhall Yard, London


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  1. Joan Boenke says:

    In your recent bulletin, you are advertising the artwork on display at the Guildhall of large paintings of London. This I’d like to see but am I too late as you have said it ends 23.04.23? If correct, why are you advertising it now?

    “The exhibition, The Big City: London painted on a grand scale is at the Guildhall Art Gallery until 23rd April 2023”.

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