Detail from "View from the South East"
A History: How the original paintings arrived at the St Petersburg Academy of Arts over 170 years ago
The exhibition of the original watercolours and drawings of the Palace of
Westminster took place at Westminster on February 16th 1990, and was opened
by the then Soviet Ambassador to the United Kingdom. This event received wide
coverage in the national press.
The exhibition consisted of eight original works including two general views of
the Houses of Parliament, a plan and five designs for details of the decoration
of the facades. While the latter were executed in Barry's own offices, the general
views were produced under Barry's supervision by the painter Thomas Allom
The limited edition presentation sets of the drawings and watercolours were
produced and exhibited alongside the originals. They are superb reproductions
exact in every detail.
Allom's views, which together with the plan offer the fullest idea of the Houses
of Parliament, display not only brilliant draughtsmanship but also perfect mastery
of the watercolour technique.
In designing the facades of the New Palace with numerous towers, Sir Charles Barry
followed the late gothic traditions which are in harmony with the architecture of
Westminster Hall and, likewise, of Westminster Abbey and Henry VIII's chapel.
One of the studies shows a detail of the central elevation of the river front,
a second of the adjoining parts of the same front whilst a third illustrates the
elevation of the north and south facades. Two other sheets by Barry represent elaborate
designs in brown wash for the sculptural decoration.
The original drawings were presented to Tzar Nicholas I in 1844 by Sir Charles Barry
on the Tzar's visit to the construction site for the New Palace of Westminster.
On his return to Russia, the Tzar subsequently presented the works by Barry and Allom
to the St Petersburg Academy of Arts where they have remained for the last 172 years.
At the time of the exhibition the then Soviet President Mr Gorbachov and British
Prime Minister Mrs Margaret Thatcher, both agreed to jointly sign 25 of the prints.
These were subsequently sold for charity.