Picturing London

Artists' interpretations: St Mildred's Church

The ruins of St Mildred's Church

The ruins of St Mildred's Church, Bread Street, City of London, 1940s
Designer: Sir Christopher Wren
Artist: Arthur Stanley George Butler
© RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections

Arthur Stanley George Butler watched as much of London's historic fabric was lost during the Blitz. Bombs were indiscriminate, just as likely to land in a home or church as a factory or government building.

Butler made countless drawings of London's decimated streets. More than simple surveys, these images captured the feeling of those affected in the immediate aftermath. Here he focuses on Sir Christopher Wren's St Mildred's Church from 1687 that was destroyed during enemy action in April and May of 1941.

Butler worked rapidly. The watercolour is employed deftly in a series of fast strokes. Building ruins fill the page with muted colours. Amid this destruction is a first sign of life, the steam shovel working away at the rubble. Loose pen over watercolour adds a level of frenetic energy and focus to the scene. The message is clear: after six months of intensive bombing raids, the capital is wounded yet defiant.

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