Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

David R Thomas (1916-1990)   BIOGRAPHY

The dismantling of London Bridge, 1968
Framed (ref: 3548)

Signed and dated, lower right, framed, 1968

Oil on canvas, 22 x 42 in. (53.5 x 104 cm.)


 In 1962, London Bridge was falling down. Built in 1831, the bridge couldn't handle the ever-increasing flow of traffic across the Thames, and, like Venice, was slowly sinking. The City of London decided to put the 130-year-old bridge up for auction, and build a new one in its place. Robert McCulloch, founder of Lake Havasu City in Arizona and the chairman of the McCulloch Oil Corporation, submitted the winning bid of $2.46m. McCulloch spent another $7m dismantling the bridge, cataloguing the pieces and moving them to their new home via Long Beach in California - a process that saw them travel more than 10,000 miles in three years. The reconstruction began on 23 September 1968, with a ceremony attended by the Lord Mayor of London, who laid the cornerstone. Legend has it that as the (re)construction neared completion, McCulloch became furious as there seemed to be some towers and other bits missing. It is said that the oil baron thought he was buying the instantly recognisable Tower Bridge, rather than the less spectacular London Bridge.

David R Thomas (1916-1990)

Topographical artist, born and lived in London, who attended Chelsea School of Art in 1931. Because of the Depression, he became a pavement artist in London and Paris; a waiter in Covent Garden; made a round-the-world trip on a tramp steamer, being shipwrecked off Cape Town, South Africa; and did four similar voyages as a member of a P&O ship's orchestra. After World War II service in the Royal Artillery, he spent four more years at art school. Thomas showed regularly at the RA Summer Exhibition. In 1982, Ben Uri Art Gallery organised Jerusalem - Then and Now, lithographs by David Roberts and paintings made by Thomas during a 1981 visit to Israel sponsored by Edgar Astaire, London stockbroker and art collector. For this, Thomas completed 11 paintings based on locations chosen by Roberts plus nine more views he found exciting. Thomas's other favourite cities included Rome, Venice and Istanbul. He had a retrospective at the Guildhall in 1983 and the City of London owns an 18-foot wide painting by him, his largest work. Canaletto was a strong influence on Thomas and a picture of the eighteenth-century Venetian painter's house in Soho, the area where Thomas lived, was included in The Urban Scene, an exhibition organised by James Huntington-Whiteley at 4 Burlington Street in 1995.

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