Research Point- Contemporary artists- urban view

The urban environment is a theme increasingly adopted by contemporary artists who revisit the art historic subject of ‘landscape’ to offer insights into today’s fast changing society. One example is John Virtue. Try to find some information on the work he produced while associate artist in residence at the National Gallery. You’ll also find works he has made on site on the moors and at sea.

John Virtue is a landscape painter whose work rides a fine line between abstraction and figuration (Taken from

John Virtue and his work

John Virtue at work in his studio
Copyright © John Virtue. Photo: The National Gallery.

His paintings have affinities with oriental brush-painting and American abstract expressionism but above all, they relate closely to the great English landscape painters, Turner and Constable, whom Virtue admires enormously. He also refers constantly to the Dutch and Flemish landscapes of Ruisdael, Koninck and Rubens.

Virtue works from the landscape of where he happens to be living. Immediately before he moved to London, he had been living in South Devon, using the landscape of the Exe estuary as his subject.

He works solely in black and white. All of his paintings are executed on canvas, using white acrylic paint, black ink and shellac.

Have a look at this monochromatic landscape from a series of views of London taken from different points along the River Thames.

I found some lovely sketches of urban landscapes done by John Virtue here:  and

Another contemporary UK artist who concentrates on urban landscapes is Angela Wakefield  Having just completed the exercises about perspective I was struck by how strongly perspective features in her work with a very clear vanishing point evident in some of her work.  For example, this view of the London Underground

I also came across Richard Estes and realised we have had a print of one of his pictures in our study for years.  We saw it at the museum in Madrid and enjoyed the slightly comical nature of the image as well as the muted colours.  Estes is well know for his photorealist paintings- they could almost be mistaken for photographs!  His pictures are full of life, with a sense of business and noise (colour/shape and sound) reflective of the type of pictures you might take with a camera as life rushes past you.  In spite of their realism they capture the mood and feel of the place.  his pictures have a sense of movement and space and use a lot of reflections in their composition.


Telephone Booths (1968), Oil on canvas. Museo Thyssen-BornemiszaMadrid. Painting by Richard Estes


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s