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Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
London's artists on the move
Covent Garden Piazza by Joseph van Aken
C18th artists struggled for recognition in the West End
At the beginning of the 21st century, London's East End is a hot spot of creative activity - with thousands of painters, sculptors and photographers living and working in close proximity.

It reveals the people and places that have been at the heart of London's developing art world

Dr Lucy Peltz, curator
A new exhibition, opening at the Museum of London on Friday, will for the first time map 300 years of the life and work of artists in the capital.

Creative Quarters shows how London's artists have always been on the move and the peculiar effect they have on the areas they inhabit.

"It's taken about a year to organise this exhibition," says Dr Lucy Peltz, the museum's curator of paintings, prints and drawings.

"It reveals the people and places that have been at the heart of London's developing art world."

Fashion and patronage

Covering the period from 1700 to 2000, the exhibition features over 150 loans from international collections, alongside the museum's own acquisitions.

William Blake on Hampstead Heath by John Linnell
William Blake was inspired by rural Hampstead
Creative Quarters focuses on eight distinct areas of the capital, starting with the migration of 18th century artists - eager for patronage - to fashionable Covent Garden and Leicester Square.

"The foundation of the Royal Acadamy in 1768 confirmed respectibility as the ideal of the aspiring artist," says Peltz.

During the 19th century, artists like William Blake and John Constabale found inspiration away from the urban centre in rural Hampstead.

Others gathered around Oxford Street, and in the latter half of the century migrated further west to Chelsea.

Here were artists like Dante Gabriel Rossetti, working in Bohemian squalor, and James McNeill Whistler.

The area became a centre for anti-establishment values and the city's first purpose-built studios were established.

Seedy Soho

With Camden and Hampstead the focus in the first half of the 20th century, by the 1950s improvements in transport allowed artists to move more freely around the capital.

Portrait of Francis Bacon by Michael Clark
Francis Bacon: New forms of expression
Soho attracted a new group of artists amid a climate of hedonism and sexual licence.

The exhibition includes works by Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon which reflect a sense of post-War angst.

In the 1960s, artists were attracted to London's East End by its low cost housing and disused factory space.

In the present day, Turner Prize winners rub shoulders with aspiring art students.

Moving on?

Creative Quarters ends with a striking photographic sculpture, London Fields - The Ghetto (1994), by Tom Hunter and James McKinnon.

London Fields - The Ghetto by Hunter and Mackinnon
The Ghetto shows a street scene in astonishing detail
Some five metres in length, it uses colour prints and transparencies to recreate two streets in Hackney which were saved by campaigning residents from demolition.

But with the Young British Artists making the areas they work trendy - and therefore expensive - it may be that the next creative generation will be moving on to pastures new.

Creative Quarters runs at the Museum of London from 30 March to 15 July

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