A Tribute to Sir Christopher Wren
Charles Robert Cockerell
Drawing, watercolour and pencil
RIBA Library Drawings Collection
This important drawing of an imaginary skyline by Charles Robert Cockerell (1788 - 1863) brings together all the major buildings that in the early 19th century were believed to be by Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) into one vast urban landscape. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1838. Cockerell was one of the finest British architectural draughtsmen of his time and a leading figure in Victorian architecture. He was president of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1860. Cockerell had an intimate knowledge of Wren's buildings - he was for many years Surveyor to the Fabric of St Paul's Cathedral - and he borrowed and used in his own designs architectural features from the Wren buildings he studied.
This composition accurately depicts over 55 buildings; including 33 London churches, palaces, colleges, hospitals and monuments (including the Monument to the Fire of London) which were built following the Great Fire of London, as well as some buildings from outside London including Chichester Cathedral, Winchester Palace and All Souls Oxford. Most of Wren's work was constructed in silvery-grey Portland stone, but the combination of red brick and stone dressings shown in many buildings here became the hallmark of late 17th century English Baroque architecture. The result was that many buildings not by Wren were attributed to him.
Wren was the first architect to dramatically influence London's skyline. His Classical design for London's St Paul's Cathedral had, and still has, a considerable impact on London's skyline. Following the Great Fire of London in 1666 a surge of rebuilding occurred using fireproof materials such brick and stone, combined with more rigorous planning guidelines. This led to the creation of 52 churches built under Wren's design, including St Paul's Cathedral. The shapes and forms of church spires as well as the colossal dome belonging to his greatest work, St Paul's Cathedral, soon dominated the city skyline.
'If you seek his monument, look around.'
Commemorative plaque marking Sir Christopher Wren's burial site in
St Paul's Cathedral, London
This drawing can be viewed in the RIBA Prints and Drawings Study Room.