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S. R. Badmin In Wapping

August 9, 2017
by the gentle author

Today I present another extract from my new book EAST END VERNACULAR, Artists who painted London’s East End streets in the 20th century to be published by Spitalfields Life Books in October. Click here to preorder your copy

Wapping Pier Head, 1935

In the second half of the last century, the meticulously rendered paintings of Stanley Roy Badmin (1906–89) achieved universal recognition among millions who may not have known his name but were familiar with his ubiquitous style. His work appeared on the covers of such popular publications as Readers’ Digest and Radio Times, in books such as the Puffin Picture Book of Village & Town, 1939, and the Ladybird Book of Trees, 1963 – as well as gracing Christmas cards published by Royle on both sides of the Atlantic.

Born in Sydenham to a family that originated in Somerset, Stanley often visited his grandfather who was a cabinet maker in the Mendips and his love for the English countryside remained a central theme throughout his artistic life. An interest in waterways, rivers, canals and bridges was part of Stanley’s fascination with the rural landscape and it was perhaps this which drew him to paint Wapping Pier Head. Certainly, there is very little in the picture to indicate that this is an urban scene. Remarkably in Wapping, where after the closure of the London Docks and their subsequent redevelopment very little remains of the past, Stanley’s view of Wapping Pier Head survives unaltered today.

At Camberwell Art School in 1922, Thomas Derrick encouraged Stanley to paint familiar subjects. “He gave me a good talking to about painting things around me and not ladies in crinolines,” recalled Stanley. Winning a place at the Royal College of Art, Stanley switched from painting to design with the blessing of William Rothenstein.

Graduating in 1927, he soon won commissions for magazine illustrations which were followed by a string of books, beginning with Highways & Byways in Essex in 1937. Additionally, Stanley travelled around the country, working for the Pilgrim Trust from 1940 as part of its Recording Britain scheme, dedicated to documenting views and buildings that were at risk, either from neglect, demolition or enemy bombs.

Postwar, Stanley’s lyrical vision of the rural English landscape caught the national imagination. Yet it avoided the nostalgic romanticism of his contemporaries through a concern with the reality of agricultural life as expressed in its working detail, farm machinery and infrastructure.

Above all, Stanley’s paintings confront the viewer with wonder at the astonishing minutiae of the world, sometimes rendering every twig and leaf in the sharp focus of a dream, and inviting us to peer into his pictures as if we are looking through a window.

Wapping Pier Head reproduced courtesy of Museum of London

The Estate of SR Badmin is represented by Chris Beetles Gallery

Take a look at some of the other artists featured in East End Vernacular

John Allin, Artist

Pearl Binder, Artist

Dorothy Bishop, Artist

Roland Collins, Artist

Anthony Eyton, Artist

Doreen Fletcher, Artist

Barnett Freedman, Artist

Lawrence Gowing, Artist

Harry T. Harmer, Artist

Elwin Hawthorn, Artist

Rose Henriques, Artist

Charles Ginner, Artist

Dan Jones,  Artist

Nathaniel Kornbluth, Artist

Leon Kossoff, Artist

James Mackinnon, Artist

Jock McFadyen, Artist

Cyril Mann, Artist

Ronald Morgan, Artist

Grace Oscroft, Artist

Peri Parkes, Artist

Henry Silk, Artist

Harold & Walter Steggles, Artists

Albert Turpin, Artist

5 Responses leave one →
  1. August 9, 2017

    Fill of warmth and light and fine architecture. London dreaming. Good to know the developers didn’t tear these buildings down.

  2. August 9, 2017

    I have known his work since I was a child, and always loved it. Valerie

  3. Sarah C permalink
    August 9, 2017

    Beautiful painting, and I love that it connects to the Ladybird books of my childhood. I live on Wapping High Street and walk past this every day. The waterway in the centre is now filled in and is the private garden for the Pier Head houses. Graham Norton lives on the side you can see in the painting (to the right closer to the river), and Helen Mirren on the side it’s viewed from. The house with the green door is currently being renovated. There are some great photos of the Beatles in Wapping in the 60s which show them fooling around these buildings and in the now-garden sloping down to the river. They are taken after water access to the Pool had been closed in, but the buildings had all been left to decay. It’s so great to see this idyllic view of it looking so serene and beautiful – not at all what you think of as 1930s Wapping!

  4. Jim McDermott permalink
    August 9, 2017

    I had ‘Village and Town’ and ‘Trees in Britain’ as a nipper in the ’60s, along with a host of Collins Little Gems, and wish I’d kept every one of them. What generation since has been able to name birds, insects and what dwells in the scary bits of ponds? Thanks for the memories, GA.

  5. pauline taylor permalink
    August 9, 2017

    I have always been an admirer of Badmin’s work so it is a treat to see some here, Thank you.

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