Unrivalled as an architectural perspectivist it is no surprise that Beard & Bennett commissioned J.D.M Harvey a trained architect to draw the perspective drawings for 53-57 Portland Place, it perhaps even featured in promotional materials at the time, the entrance reception or the property sales boardroom.
“The architectural draughtsman who is equally competent at drawing such incidentals [as landscape and figures] is as rare as the landscape or figure painter who is equally competent at architecture. Harvey was one of those rare men. He would draw a building with a slightly freer hand than an architect would, and his landscape in a slightly more architectural manner than that of a painter.” Perspective in Perspective, Lawrence Wright (Routledge 1983) p234. This watercolour of 53-57 Portland Place is just as much about the elegant building as the stylish cars, well dressed people and sophisticated London street.
Harvey was born in Newfoundland, where his father was a railway engineer, and came to England aged 17, studying at St Paul’s School, London and at the School of Architecture, University College London 1914-1918, being awarded the Donaldson medal. In 1920 he went into practice on his own, designing several interiors with J A Bowden. Amongst his works were the reconstruction and interior decoration of 4 Cleveland Place, London (1936-37), and a house – including all furnishings – in Herne Hill for Dr M I Elliot (1938). After 1944 he primarily worked as a perspective artist and illustrator, a role to which he was particularly well suited.
During the war he was a member of St Paul’s Watch, a group of over one hundred architects and surveyors and artists who kept watch over St Paul’s Cathedral during the blitz, extinguishing fires and helping St Paul’s to survive the war virtually unscathed. The Watch was described as the ‘Best dining club in London’ on account of its influential members. He retired to Italy, living on the shore of Lake Como, and enjoying the local red wine.