A Night in London

Fire Guards patrol the roof of the Houses of Parliament

Bill Brandt

Fire Guards patrol the roof of the Houses of Parliament

Vintage Gelatin Silver Print

19.4 x 25.1 cms (7.62 x 9.86 ins)

1942

HC 10933

Provenance

The Estate of Bill Brandt
Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

Exhibited

Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty, Art Gallery of Ontario, 5 April - 20 July 2014. (This print)

Literature

Bill Brandt, "Fire Guard on the House of Commons", Picture Post, 14 November 1942, pp.11-13. (part of a ten photograph photo essay)

Annotated and dated verso. Also with photographer's 58 Hillfield Court stamp and labels verso.

Inscribed by Brandt in blue ink: "Fire Guards patrol the roof of the House of Lords. In the background is the Victoria tower (autumn 1943)"

Only known print of this brooding image of London at night. Although Brandt's nocturnes often used the light of dusk, this is a photograph lit by moonlight.

Despite Brandt's inscription, the photograph was taken in 1942, not 1943, for it was reproduced over a double page spread in Picture Post in November 1942. Also despite the inscription which identifies the setting as the House of Lords, the article was on the fire fighters at the House of Commons, the adjoining building.

Many of Brandt's night views of London during the Blitz were made during blackouts imposed in an attempt to make the city less vulnerable to German bombers. Brandt later wrote: "The darkened town, lit only by moonlight, looked more beautiful than before or since. It was fascinating to walk through the deserted streets and to photograph houses which I knew well, and which no longer looked three-dimensional, but flat like painted stage scenery."

Reflecting on photographs such as this, Brandt subsequently wrote:

"The London of the last war was a different place from the London of 1938. The glamorous make-up of the world's largest city faded with the lights. Under the soft light of the moon the blacked-out town had a new beauty. The houses looked flat like painted scenery and the bombed ruins made strangely shaped silhouettes. Through the gaps new vistas were opened and for the first time the Londoner caught the full view of St Paul's Cathedral"

Copyright The Bill Brandt Archive, London / Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York / Zürich. 2018

British Photography / The Hyman Collection

Bill Brandt

Fire Guards patrol the roof of the Houses of Parliament

Vintage Gelatin Silver Print

19.4 x 25.1 cms (7.62 x 9.86 ins)

1942

HC 10933

All images © the artist or copyright holder | Website © The Hyman Collection 2019