A 1926 London Underground painting foresaw the city’s skyscrapers

Most artistic visions of London’s future have been darkly pessimistic. But this Underground poster painted by Montague B Black in 1926 offered an uncanny – and much more optimistic – view of the modern city.

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In 1926, London Underground published a poster painted by Montague B Black, a publicity artist who also created images for Liverpool’s White Star Line, which imagines London in 2026. A golden sky enfolds a cityscape of skyscrapers over which various types of flying machine hover.

We’ve more than a decade to go until these painting can be fully judged on accuracy but it’s safe to say as the city stands today Black’s vision looks remarkably similar. His skyscraper designs are inspired by the innovative American city architecture from his own time.

He didn’t quite imagine anything as dynamic as the Shard. Where this piece of art differs from others of the period however is its rather optimistic of the city’s future.

The vast majority of artistic visions of London’s future are darkly pessimistic. Artists have imagined the city in ruins, in flames, forgotten and abandoned. A pioneer of such urban sci-fi art was the Romantic architect Sir John Soane, who built the Bank of England. In 1830 Soane, who loved the ruins of Rome and their brooding depictions by Piranesi, commissioned the artist Joseph Gandy to depict his own architectural masterpiece as it might look far into the future: a colossal ruin of a city.

Somehow, this way of seeing London’s future has a deep appeal.

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