Art, Artists & Islington

The arts scene in Islington continues to thrive. The area has a long history of culture and creativity. Islington is London’s capital art sphere with educational provision and a diverse range of art galleries, dealers, exhibitions and events.


Upper Street in arty Islington
Upper Street in arty Islington

The borough is home to artists of all genres with art spaces, creative hubs and a growing reputation for modern and digital expression.


Such is Islington's worldwide renown for the arts, the area in Greater London can boast a unique, rich artistic history like no other, underpinning a host of emerging talent redefining the boundaries of the modern art movement.


Famous artists Islington


Islington’s laidback, inventive vibe has long been home to creative types from music to writing to painting. Islington’s most famous residents include Oscar Wilde, Alexander McQueen and George Orwell.


William Hogarth lived in Islington during the 18th Century. Hogarth began his artistic career as an apprentice to a goldsmith and began producing engraved designs before taking up oil painting. Described as the “first great English painter”, Hogarth was celebrated for his satirical and scathing commentary on English society.


William Hogarth portrait from the National Gallery
William Hogarth portrait from the National Gallery

Walter Richard Sickert remains one of the best-known artists to have been resident in Islington. The impressionist was a founding member of the renowned the Camden Town Group. Established in 1911, the gathering of artists met frequently at Sickert’s studio and gained recognition for their depiction of Edwardian urban life. Sickert lived an extraordinary life and has even been the subject of an accusation that he was in fact Jack the Ripper.


Illustrator and caricaturist George Cruikshank lived in Islington during the period in which he provided the drawings for Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Cruikshank was notable for the prodigious body of work he produced during the 1800s. Favourably compared to Hogarth for his satirical pieces, Cruikshank also produced illustrations for novelists Sir Walter Scott and William Ainsworth.


Latterly, Islington has been the residence of a new generation of internationally renowned artists, including Claire Partington, James Freeman and Freya Douglas-Morris.


Paintings and artworks depicting Islington


Islington is not only home to famous artists but has provided the backdrop and inspiration for many celebrated works.


In the 1750s, Italian painter Canaletto produced his “London view from Islington”, depicting the East End with a view looking out to St. Paul’s Cathedral.


Another famous artwork featuring the area is Francis Hayman’s “The New River at Islington with a Family Going Awalking”. Hayman was an English painter and in 1768 was one of the founding members of the Royal Academy of Arts. Described as the “most versatile British painter of his period”, Hogarth would later become the institution’s librarian.


Perhaps the most famous location in Islington is the site of the former Angel Inn (as featured on Monopoly boards as the Angel of Islington). Artist Thomas Rowlandson lived nearby and produced a famed illustration of the public house which stood on the location in 1792.


Artistic inspiration in Islington


Life in Islington and the borough’s diverse culture have long inspired the arts and continue to do so today.


From the mediaeval inns which transformed into “resorts” for Londoners in the 18th Century, to the Victorian music halls, theatres and societies, to the green spaces, residential retreats and vibrant nightlife of today, Islington continues to inspire.


The art scene in Islington today


Islington has gone through great changes in recent years and has become one of London’s most desirable places to live. This cosmopolitan haven, off the main tourist trails of the capital, continues to breed artistic talent.


The Pangolin Sculpture Gallery, located near King’s Place, regularly delivers exhibitions of the finest sculptures and the organisation was behind the Pangolin Sculpture Trail, a route dotted with modern art installations.


King’s Place itself has emerged as a cultural hub for music, food and the arts. The gallery at Kings Place hosts many different exhibitions from emerging artists. As well as this, you’ll find workshops and classes in all manner of genres.


Kings Place
Kings Place

Elsewhere in Islington, the Parasol Unit is a non-profit art gallery dedicated to contemporary art. The organisation host a number of exhibitions and also operates as an educational charity.


The Victoria Miro opened in Islington at the turn of the new millennium and has a second space in. The contemporary gallery was established by the art dealer herself and runs a series of exhibitions and art fairs.


The Estorick Collection opened in 1998 and houses six galleries and an art library. The Estorick Collection is internationally renowned for its Futurist works and has an extensive display of figurative art and sculptures dating from the late 19th Century to the mid-20th Century.


In many ways, that brief introduction to Islington and its place at the heart of the London art scene merely scratches the surface as to what is on offer in the borough. Islington is also a veritable treasure trove of independent art shops, materials outlets and framing specialists, with an abundance of art classes catering for beginners and those honing their craft. Not least, the London Art Fair which is held annually at Islington’s Business Centre.


To find out more about the resources and spaces from which to draw inspiration from the artistic wonders of Islington, contact us at Aspire Via Studios today.


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