Data + Design Project

Classic Paintings of London On Top of Google Street Views of the City

Thursday 02.20.2014 , Posted by
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If you walk the streets of London often enough, it’s easy to forget the massive amount of history that surrounds you. But, just looking up can send your head spinning into the past again. From the giant dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, to the towers of Westminster Abby and the quiet banks of the Thames in Greenwich, almost every view of the old city is filled with stories from the past. Redditor shystone recently when on an internet odyssey using classic paintings from the city’s history and matching them up with modern day views from Google Street View.

Each example here is filled with fascinating details and obvious comparisons in life separated by centuries… even if the buildings remain the same. In the classic paintings, many by the Italian painter Canaletto, we see an 18th century city filled with street life of the two footed kind. The modern day world that surrounds the painting is filled with automobiles, far fewer pedestrians and very few horses. It’s a drastic change in the use of public space.

(above: St Martins in the Fields (1888) by William Logsdail)

Westminster Abbey with a Procession of Knights of the Bath (1749) by Canaletto
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In some images we see buildings yet to be built; in others buildings that would be demolished, but the main structures of the past remain.

It’s easy to romanticize the past, especially while looking at the glowing hues and unusual scenes in each painting showing the old city; and that’s why it’s important to remember the how impartial and unimaginative Google Street View can be. Google, unlike these classic painters, has no “rose colored” lens to view the city through.

Find all these examples along with anecdotes from shystone on Imgur.

See Also Beauty Captured By Google Street View

The River Thames with St. Paul’s Cathedral on Lord Mayor’s Day (1746) by Canaletto
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Northumberland House (1752) by Canaletto
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Covent Garden Market (1737) by Balthazar Nebot
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The Strand Looking East from Exeter Exchange (1822). Artist Unknown.
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The 9th of November, 1888 (1890) by William Logsdail
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View of The Grand Walk (1751) by Canaletto
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Blackman Street London (1885) by John Atkinson Grimshaw
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A View of Greenwich from the River (1750-2) by Canaletto
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via lostateminor & Reddit

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Benjamin Starr

Written by Benjamin Starr



Known in some circles as the most amazing man in the universe, he once saved an entire family of muskrats from a sinking, fire engulfed steamboat while recovering from two broken arms relating to a botched no-chute wingsuit landing in North Korea. When not impressing people with his humbling humility, he can be found freelance writing, finding shiny objects on the internet, enjoying the company of much-appreciated friends and living out his nomadic nature. He is Managing Editor of Visual News. Follow his movements on Twitter:

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