Walking in Tate Britain I saw the panting that depicted a familiar view at the Trafalgar square. I saw a young flower girl on the canvas “St Martin-in-the-Fields” by William Logsdail. The background features St Martin-in-the-Fields church which provides the title to this canvas. It was painted in 1888 and I took a photograph of the same place 128 years later.

 

Of course, some things changed but not as much as you might expect. At the centre of the photograph you can see the London Coliseum — with the tower and a globe on it. The Coliseum was built 6 years after the canvas was painted.

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London Coliseum, St Martin’s Lane

In the painting the traffic is intensive but there were only horse carriages. At the same time period many engineers worldwide were working on developing carriages into automobiles. Interesting that in 1888 Bertha Benz took a newly constructed automobile of her husband, and made the very first auto voyage (104 km) with her children to visit her mother. And yes, basically she drove Mercedes-Benz.

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The Benz Patent – Motorwagen Nr.3 pf the year 1888

In spite of all these contemporary-modern features, I was drown to the central character of the painting. She reminded me Eliza Doolittle from Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw. Supporting my idea there is a quote from a play:

She wears a little sailor hat of black straw that has long been exposed to the dust and soot of London and has seldom if ever been brushed. She wears a shoddy black coat. She has a brown skirt with a coarse apron. Her boots are much the worse for wear”.

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Logsdail “St Martin-in-the-Field” 1888 (fragment)

Covent Garden, portico of the church, flower girl — does it remind you anything? 

Covent Garden at 11.15 p.m. Torrents of heavy summer rain. Cab whistles blowing frantically in all directions. Pedestrians running for shelter into the market and under the portico of St. Paul’s Church, where there are already several people, among them a lady and her daughter in evening dress…[Flower girl] sits down on the plinth of the column, sorting her flowers, on the lady’s right. (Bernard Shaw “Pygmalion” Act I)

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Willian Logsdail “St Martin-in-the-Field”, Tate Britain, 1888

Just to remind you, Bernard Shaw moved to London in 1873. And it is very possible that he could have visited the museum, seen this piece of art and put into words the life of the grown flower girl from Covent Garden adapting the play to the time of writing that is 1912.

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First American publication of “Pygmalion”. November, 1914