11 Sep 2008

Stuart Free

Donovan Bros Spitalfields by Stuart Free
Stuart Free

For my birthday earlier this week my girlfriend bought me a limited edition print from north London artist Stuart Free. It is a painting depicting the distinctive Donovan Bros. shopfront in Spitalfields which has always been one of my favourite sites in London. [Update here.]

Stuart clearly produced this painting before the sign was recently touched up and, even more recently, partially covered by a tacky estate agents’ banner (see images below). When I saw the covering on my most recent visit I was assured by a local passer-by that it will be removed once the estate agents finish their business in the area. Something that Stuart has captured in his painting which I haven’t seen before is the text found on the inside of the shutters which has since been painted over. Googling ‘Donovan Bros’ shows that the firm is still in business, albeit now operating out of south London.

This is the only ‘Ghost Sign’ that Stuart has in his extensive collection of mainly London locations but their are many other shopfronts, cinemas, landmarks and more that may be of interest. There are similarities in terms of the locations chosen between Stuart and Paul Talling over at Derelict London. It is also worth comparing to the work of Martin Thompson who has pursued the Ghost Sign theme to a greater extent in his ‘Urban Fossils’ series (Martin’s website here.).

Being limited edition I don’t know how many copies of this particular print are available but it is well worth a browse of Stuart’s collection as you are likely to find something familiar among his paintings.

Donovan Bros Paper Bags before
Photo: Gary Farrer
Donovan Bros Paper Bags after
Photo: Su-Lin Lee
Donovan Bros Spitalfields rebranded 2008

Donovan Bros, rebranded, 2008

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