Edward Bawden’s lithograph clearly shows the distinctive tiered structure and domed roof of Smithfield Market, home to London’s largest livestock market. In the central aisle white-coated traders go about their business hanging, carrying and chopping whole sides of meat – here picked out in a flesh colour to contrast with the blue and black tones of the rest of the print.
There has been a livestock market on this site since the 12th century. By the end of the 18th century the number of animals being brought to Smithfield from around the country was causing mayhem in the area, so plans were drawn up to start a new market in the area to specialise in cut meat. The new building designed by Horace Jones, the city architect, was completed in 1868. Part of this building – known as the Poultry Market – was then destroyed by fire in 1958 and a new building was commissioned and, at a cost of £2 million, was completed in 1963.
This lithograph is from a portfolio of Six London Markets that Bawden completed in 1967 – Covent Garden Flower Market, Covent Garden Fruit Market, Billingsgate, Borough and Leadenhall being the other markets featured.
Edward Bawden was born in Braintree, Essex, in 1903. He first studied at the School of Art in Cambridge between 1918 and 1922, before continuing his studies at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London under Paul Nash between 1922 and 1926. He was a contemporary of the artist Eric Ravilious and while he was still at the RCA, Bawden was commissioned along with Ravilious to paint a mural at Morley College in London (destroyed in 1940).
He worked for the Curwen Press and other publishers after leaving the RCA, producing advertisements, book jackets, posters and leaflets, as well as other forms of graphic design. Among his earliest lithographs were posters published in 1925 for the London Underground. His first solo exhibition was held in London in 1933 and a year later he was made a tutor in the School of Graphic Design at the RCA.
Bawden was made an Official War Artist during the Second World War, working in Belgium, France, the Middle East and Africa. On his return in 1946 he was awarded the CBE. He continued to work in the medium of graphic design, but returned to mural painting after the War; he produced murals for the Festival of Britain in 1951 and for the British Pavilion at Expo ’67 in Montreal. In 1956, he was made a Royal Academician and in 1963 became an honorary fellow of the RCA. He remains best known for his prints and drawings. Works by Bawden can be found in many collections, including Tate, the Imperial War Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
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