Feliks Topolski's Memoir of the Century
The 'Memoir of the Century' is a unique mural depicting the major political world events of the Twentieth Century and the personalities who fashioned them. Six hundred feet long the 'Memoir' is painted on hardboard panels twenty feet high and curves snake-like through railway viaduct arches Nos 150, 151 and 152, on the south bank side of London's Hungerford Bridge over the River Thames. It is the artist Feliks Topolski's pictorial and historical representation painted over fifteen years from Topolski's many hundreds of vivid eye-witness and on-the-spot drawings and paintings made in a century of high drama. The 'Memoir', opposite the Royal Festival Hall in the arts complex at Waterloo, was opened by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1948, donated to the nation by the artist, acquired by the Greater London Council and now owned and administered by the South Bank Arts Centre. The 'Memoir of the Century' is open daily and free to the public. Funds are being sought for renovation and upgrading. Bernard Denvir wrote in "FELIKS TOPOLSKI: Chronicler Extraordinary" on Topolski's Memoir "... there still unfolds that massive pictorial autobiography, or history of our time, which he calls Memoir of the Century, a gigantic exercise in comment and documentation, which he [Topolski] describes as 'twelve to twenty feet high, and roughly continuous, patched up and overlapping, punctuated by three-dimensional relief accents, an environment of painting. Once started, I mean to go on painting this visual diary for as many yards, or curving twisted miles as I shall last. It will be well in character to have it not elegantly ended, but - I trust not too soon - interrupted in the middle of a brush-stroke'. Few artists, if any, have been more successful than Topolski in recording the public life of the twentieth century." GRAHAM HUGHES wrote the following note on 'Memoir of the Century' in the magazine Arts Review (in the era of the Greater London Council): If you go to Waterloo Station and aim for the Stage Door of the Festival Hall, you will find three huge arches beneath the railway bridge beautifully cleaned and lit by the GLC, and transformed inside by Feliks into one of the more exciting caverns I have ever penetrated. It might recall to you Fingal’s Cave, the Blue Grotto at Taormina, or the Latomia dug at Syracuse, Sicily, by the poor Athenian prisoners over two thousand years ago. It is indeed an extraordinary scene under Hungerford Bridge, the great arches interrupted by Feliks’ big vertical obelisk shapes, the round and square columns, and everywhere his restless, indefatigable sketches of his life’s experiences, in every conceivable colour and scale. The sequence of murals is 750 ft long, and he has given it to his favourite city, London.
There (and he is now labelling them for easier recognition) are the London Blitz, Arctic convoys to Russia, Black Africa, old China and China at war in Chungking, India with its Maharajas and chaos. Later comes the liberation scenes: armies, war crime trials at Nurnberg, concentration camps, the Cavalcade of the Commonwealth made for the 1951 Festival of Britain, Churchill, Edith Sitwell, the Royal family and all sorts of friends….he knows everyone, has been everywhere, everyone loves him, and, more important, he just can’t stop drawing. Feliks is different: here is a vast panorama mural, a cavalcade and pageant and portrait gallery, which can appeal to each and every one of us, at whatever level we happen to be. Humble curiosity, a grand yearning for the epic, historical, nostalgia, art history, admiration for Feliks’ “dazzling fluency”, all these diverse feelings may be aroused by a visit to Feliks’ grand creative work.
Monday to Saturday, 11am-7pm
Admission: £2 adult (£1 concesion)
free for SE1 residents
Feliks Topolski's Memoir of the Century
Concert Hall Approach
020 7620 1275