Cyril Farey was popularly acclaimed as the greatest architectural draftsman of his age and indeed possibly of the twentieth century. He observed of his clients that rather than the building “It’s the trees and buses they pay for.” Wanting a fine picture to hang afterwards in the boardroom, or a picture that would render the most dull of architecture an improvement to its surroundings, a commissioning architect would call for Farey’s services. Aware of his ability to turn the mundane into the spectacular, he noted that the architecture should nonetheless be accurate with the impressionistic rendering applied only to the trees, people and landscape.
Born in London, he was at prep school at St Aubyns, East Sussex. He trained as an architect at the Architectural Association, being awarded a travelling scholarship in 1909. Farey ran a successful architect’s practice, latterly with his associate Adams, but was – and is – far more famous for producing splendid drawings for the works of other architects, many of which were exhibited at the Royal Academy. Indeed so many of his works were exhibited there that the RA architecture rooms became known as ‘Fareyland’. Lutyens when entering the room once exclaimed “What ho the Farey Glen.” A distinctive feature of many of his pictures is the reflections in the foreground, as though following recent rain. His favoured method was to use rough Whatman paper, sketching first with pencil, and then carefully controlling the fall of the light, so as to place the shadows with great accuracy; the product of the sunny spring and summer days he favoured to illustrate his buildings. A small drawing took a couple of days, a large one might take as much as three weeks to complete.