Christopher Wren tribute drawing to British Architectural Library

  • 29 November 2006

The British Architectural Library has acquired Charles Robert Cockerell's tribute to Sir Christopher Wren with the help of an Art Fund grant.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Trust is delighted to announce that the British Architectural Library (BAL) has purchased “A Tribute to Sir Christopher Wren”, the most important drawing by Charles Robert Cockerell RA ever to come to the market. The drawing brings together all the buildings that in the early 19th century were believed to be by Wren into one vast urban landscape.

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund said:
“Cockerell’s tribute to Sir Christopher Wren is a passionate celebration of Wren’s genius, and one which had a profound influence on the Wren renaissance. The Art Fund wholeheartedly supported the purchase of this tour de force, which has found the perfect home at the RIBA.”

The BAL purchased the drawing at Sotheby’s auction house at a cost of £98,800, made possible by a £31,026 Art Fund grant, with a further grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and additional funding from both the British Architectural Library Trust and the RIBA Drawings Endowment Fund. Located in the RIBA Library’s Drawings Collection at the V&A, the drawing will join work by both Cockerell and Wren already held in the collection.

Exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1838, the drawing, which is watercolour over pencil, sparked a reappraisal of Wren’s work that led to his being regarded until well into the 20th century as the most important architect England had produced. The popular revival of his style, christened by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the “Wrennaisance”, left its mark on every high street in the country. This picture was extensively reproduced from the late 19th century in popular books and encyclopaedias.

Charles Robert Cockerell (1788 – 1863) was the first recipient of the Royal Gold Medal in 1848 and the first professional architect to serve as President of the RIBA from 1860 – 1862. He was regarded as one of the leading architects of his day and his portrait is carved on the podium of the Albert Memorial as a representative of Victorian architecture.

Related links:

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)