Ben Johnson’s Startlingly Realistic Architecture Paintings

Realistic Architecture Paintings
Patio de los Arrayanes, 2015, Acrylic on canvas, 220 x 220 cm

Artist Ben Johnson has been painting for 50+ years. He is best known for his realistic architecture paintings – large scale cityscapes and detailed architectural renderings, some of which have taken multiple years to complete.

Realistic Architecture Paintings

Ben Johnson in front of his painting, Patio de los Arrayanes, in progress

The artist recently had a solo exhibition of his work spanning the past fifty years* at the Southhampton City Art Gallery. His first retrospective, it presented an opportunity to see the much of his work via the 45 paintings.

Ben Johnson Retrospective at the Southhampton City Art Gallery

The show illustrated his interests in varied types of architecture from traditional and ornate to modern and streamlined.

His early enormous cityscapes of Zurich, London, Jerusalem and Hong Kong almost look like photographed postcards.


above: Zurich 2003, acrylic on canvas, 79x158in / 200x400cm

At work on “Looking Back to Richmond House” 


above: Looking Back to Richmond House 2011, acrylic on canvas, 72 x 108 in / 183 x 274 cm

His 2008 Liverpool Cityscape, which covers an area of 5 square miles, took an entire team 3 years to complete. If painted by only one person, it would have taken 18.

liverpool cityscape
above: The Liverpool Cityscape, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 96 x 192in / 244 x 488cm

His later work is painted in varying degrees of realism. His subjects range from modern building exteriors with lots of reflective windows to centuries old interiors with inlaid marble floors and ornate columns. Below are several examples.

Mirador de Lindaraja, 2013, Acrylic on canvas, 87 x 87 in / 220 x 220 cm

Facade of Sala de la Barca, 2015, Acrylic on canvas, 163 x 202 cm

Ben at work on The Roman Room
Ben at work on The Roman Room

Roman Room, 2014, Acrylic on canvas, 71 x 93 in / 180 x 237 cm

Room of the Revolutionary, 2014, Acrylic on canvas, 89 x 59 in / 225 x 150 cm

Far Horizons III, 2010, Acrylic on canvas, 71 x 71in / 180 x 180cm

Mythological Room, 2012, Acrylic on canvas, 71 x 47in / 180 x 120 cm

In Another Light, 2010, Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 90in / 152 x 229cm

Room of the Niobids, 2011, Acrylic on canvas, 71 x 99 in / 180 x 252 cm

Echoing Screens, 2009, Acrylic on canvas, 50 x 50 in / 127 x 127 cm

Corridor of Benediction, 2000, Acrylic on linen, 55x76in / 140x193cm
Corridor+of+Benediction+2000

Reflections on Past and Present, Paris, 1996, Acrylic on canvas, 100x80in / 254x203cm

Structural Trees, Stansted, 1990, Acrylic on canvas, 60x60in / 150x150cm

The Unattended Moment, 1993, Acrylic on canvas, 72x96in / 184x243cm

IBM North Harbour, 1984, Acrylic on canvas, 78x117in / 198x297cm

In the video below by Studio International, you can watch Ben creating the Patio de los Arrayanes at the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain 2015 (the painting shown at the top of the post):

About the artist (from his website):
Ben Johnson was born in Llandudno, Wales, in 1946. He studied at the Royal College of Art and has lived and worked in London since 1965.

Ben at work on Echoing Screens
Ben at work on Echoing Screens

His first solo exhibition was at the Wickesham Gallery, New York, in 1969 immediately after graduating from the Royal College. He is best known for his paintings based on architectural spaces (some almost forensically accurate, others heavily manipulated) and his large-scale, intricately detailed cityscape paintings, which include panoramas of Hong Kong, Zürich, Jerusalem, Liverpool and, most recently, his view of London which was completed as part of a residency at the National Gallery, London, in 2010.

Hong Kong Panorama 1997, Acrylic on canvas, 6x12ft / 1.83×3.66m

Over the past 46 years he has exhibited widely in galleries and museums across the world, including the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; the Art Institute of Chicago; Kunsthalle Tübingen; and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. At the first Venice Architecture Biennale in 1991, Norman Foster portrayed his work solely through Johnson’s images and he included him again in his installation there in 2012. His work is part of a travelling exhibition currently touring museum venues in Europe, and the first retrospective exhibition of his paintings opened in September 2015 at the Southampton City Museum and Art Gallery. Johnson has for years been an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects for his contribution to the public’s understanding of contemporary architecture and, in 2015, was made an Honorary Fellow of Glyndwr University, Wales, for services to the public appreciation of the Arts.

He has undertaken commissions for the Royal Institute of British Architects, the British Museum and National Museums Liverpool as well as for IBM, HSBC, JP Morgan, British Steel, Hong Kong Telecommunications and many others.

His work is included in the permanent collections of museums worldwide, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Regional Services Museum, Hong Kong; and the Government Art Collection.

Ben Johnson

* Spirit of Place: Paintings 1969-2015 ran at the Southhampton City gallery from Fri, Sep 18, 2015 – Sat, Jan 23, 2016

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