Coronation Procession in Oxford Street, 1953 by Kenneth WynnJune 1, 2012 About my museum job, Blogs
In the run up to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, our Curator of Paintings, Prints and Drawings, Pat Hardy, tells us more about a rather timely acquisition into the Museum’s collections.
One of the delights of being an art curator is when people offer paintings to the Museum as a gift. It is an act of pure goodwill; there are often no tax advantages or conditions attached. They simply think that the work should be kept for future generations in the Museum of London so that others, apart from their own family, can enjoy and appreciate it. It’s even better when the gift happens to be something which is highly topical, artistically sound and with a good story attached to it.
This happened earlier in the year when I received an email about an evocative watercolour of the Royal Procession on Coronation Day, 2 June 1953. It was painted by artist Kenneth Wynn( 1922-2009) who had been invited to Selfridges Department store on Oxford Street on that day to discuss a commission to paint some murals for the shop (which he did do later) and to watch the Coronation on the television installed there, still a relatively new and exotic activity at this time. The Coronation drew in audiences of 20 million as people crowded round whatever sets were available to watch this national event and feel part of the ceremonial.
Wynn stepped out onto Selfridges’ balcony to watch the Procession as it made its way back to Buckingham Palace from Westminster Abbey, taking a circuitous route around the West End lined with spectators. He made some sketches which he worked up into this watercolour shown above. It conveys in the rapid brushstroke that sense of immediacy, of currency with a major historical event and the desire to get it down in paint as quickly as possible. The vivid reds of the street decorations and the livery of the coachmen contrast with the grey rainy day, typical of this wet early summertime in 1953, while the strong compositional lines recreate the stately movement of this royal spectacle.