Mr Griffen in his studio

Although some people liked my post about Francis Griffen back in July as it turned out there still seems to be little known about him. One reader made a comment about buying  some greetings cards featuring paintings by Griffen. I was already aware of this set, of five pictures. They were originally published by a Mr T G Stanton in the 1990s. I think the same gentleman made an offer to buy our Griffen collection about the same time. (We declined. Apart from our general policy about art works, the collection was donated to the Library by Griffen’s widow.) This is one of the pictures:

An August night 1923

An autumn night, 1923. A completely finished work, as opposed to most of the pictures in our collection. For me, it is reminiscent of one of  Yoshio Markino’s night time pictures of London.

Griffen liked street scenes showing ordinary life in progress but his other major interest was in industrial settings, and this is also reflected in the set of cards.

King's Cross Goods Yard 1937

A fascinating view of King’s Cross goods yard in 1937. Note the man on the horse, and the tram just visible on the right.

Griffen’s Chelsea pictures are less finished but just as effective.

The river Good Friday 1934 2059

This 1934 view of the river looking west is immediately recognisable with St Mary’s Church and the railway bridge but  Griffen has found an angle which doesn’t include Lots Road power station.

The picture below shows a familiar Chelsea scene in 1935, Sloane Square looking towards the original Peter Jones building.

Sloane Square Jan 1935 2063C

It also features a fine example of a group of one of Griffen’s favourite slinky women.

Sloane Square Jan 1935 detail

He captures them and the look of 30s fashion in a few pencil strokes. The quite large dog (maybe a German shepherd, or an Alsatian as they used to be known ) is a realistic touch, obviously much more than a fashion accessory. There’s another fashionable woman in this picture.

Lombard Terrace 1934 2067C 02 - Copy

This is Cheyne Walk looking towards the Old Church. (Incidentally, I’ve had to crop this one a little bit so if the compostion doesn’t look quite right blame me not Griffen)

In the last Griffen post you saw a view of the ruins of the church after the bomb incident that virtually destroyed it. Griffen also recorded the aftermath of another major bomb incident in 1944 at the Guinness Trust buildings in the King’s Road.

Griffen- The Ruined Guinness Trust KingsRoad May 13 1944

This is a rough pencil sketch of the scene some weeks after the incident which was on February 23rd. A couple of bombs had fallen, one fracturing gas and water mains, the other causing the collapse of housing blocks. 76 people lost their lives that night. A volunteer fireman named Anthony Smith won the George Cross for his efforts in saving people and risking his own life by entering collapsed and flooded basements.

This 1953 etching is a view of a house near the Old Church.

Griffen - House next to Old Church June 1953 2065C

Griffen’s work on the details of the house is quite meticulous.

The next two images show work in progress, two versions of the same basic view.

Griffen - Chelsea Polytechnic may 29 1939 2107AGriffen - Chelsea Polytechnic march 01 1939 2104A hand wiped

The pictures are both labelled “Chelsea Polytechnic” but this may not refer to the subject, which looks a little more like Old  Church Street to me. They are dated 1939.

Griffen - In Grosvenor Road July 1951 2098A

This rverside view is called “In Grosvenor Road,1951”, a location just outside Chelsea.

The title of this week’s post promised you Griffen in his studio. And here he is:

Griffen 2054C

A self-portrait of a working artist looking out on his neighbourhood.

Finally, a couple of classic Chelsea images. This is a 1912 picture of a famous sight in Oakley Street.

Griffen - Dr Phene's house Oakley Street 1912 2078A

Dr Phene’s house, ten years or so before its demolition.

Another subject tackled by many local artists, Albert Bridge.

Albert Bridge 2052D 01 (2)

Once again I find myself thinking of Yoshio Markino who painted the bridge from a similar angle. This picture is quite large but I wanted to use it so I scanned it in two sections. You can just see a line on the right. I hope that doesn’t spoil the view.


The two greetings cards were published in 1998 part of a set of five by the aforementioned T G Stanton.

I mentioned the reader who made a comment on the last Griffen post to whom I sent a copy of the first image. She mentioned that she had bought the cards in the UK but was now back in Mongolia. I couldn’t help but wonder what Griffen would have thought of his having an admirer who lived so far from his home in Chelsea.

10 responses to “Mr Griffen in his studio

  • Jipimages

    Some excellent work here. Love the reflections from the wet ground and the detail he put into his work.

  • Tony Truss

    Fascinating as always… thank you so much.

  • anglosardo

    In the self-portrait the houses on the right are recognisable as those on the north side of Gertrude Street, so the house on the left must be on the south-west corner of the Gertrude/Shalcomb junction. I’m pretty sure the Griffens’ flat at number 40 Gertude Street was on the other (south-east) corner.

  • Reg Francis

    Dear Dave,the first Griffen painting is Victoria Embankment intersecting with Northumberland Avenue Hungerford Bridge in background. I,m with you on the Church street suggestion what is the name of that tiny alley that takes you through to the Cross Keys pub?


  • Malcolm Tucker

    The second picture here has been mis-labelled. It shows the Battersea gasholders from the north and there is no resemblance to King’s Cross! One sees the giant M.A.N. gasholder, behind that Gasholder No.6 and in front Gasholder No.4, which was replaced later by a frameless one. Featured in the middle ground is the former LBSCR’s Goods Depot, as was shown on Sheet 88 (1913) of the Godfrey Edition Ordnance Survey maps, including sidings on the riverside wharf. To the far right is the approach to Chelsea Bridge. The artist was probably on temporary staging just downstream of the bridge pier, since 1937 was the year of completion of the bridge’s rebuilding. On the left-hand horizon are the two water towers of the recently-burnt-down Crystal Palace, which were demolished in 1941. So this is a faithful rendering of a part of the artist’s home territory.

    • Dave Walker

      You’re not the only person to point this out recently. I think you’re right. The image is from a set of 6 greetings cards, 4 of which are captioned in the same writing as Griffen’s, which is why I never doubted the title of this one. I don’t know what other information Mr Stanton had about the picture. I’m assuming he owned the original. Unfortunately there is very little information availible about Griffen and his work.

  • Marcia Howard

    Fabulous images.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: