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Answer 73. It was John Maynard Keynes who heard the bombs falling here.


HA brilliant economist, Keynes was already thinking about the reconstruction of Europe after the war. He was worried that the victorious Allies would insist on Germany paying for all the damage… including all those bombs falling around him on Gower Street.

Keynes knew that squeezing the Germans beyond their ability to pay was a recipe for disaster. In his view, it would be much better for everyone if the  Germans were helped back onto their feet instead. Keynes said as much at the Versailles peace conference in 1919, but nobody listened.

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RaphaelitesTwo doors up from Keynes, an angry young man lived with his parents at 7 Gower Street in 1848. Still only 19, John Everett Millais had just had a painting rejected by the Royal Academy. He was an exceptionally gifted artist, but his particular style of painting was not to the Academy’s taste.

There were only 40 full members of the Academy. They were a stuffy lot, old men clinging to the artistic rules of a bygone age. Every painting had to be mannered and formal to pass muster at the Academy. All colours had to be muted. All compositions had to comprise either an S shape or a triangle. Paintings that broke the rules had no chance of acceptance for the Academy’s summer exhibition.

Millais didn’t want to paint like that. Nor did his friends Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt. In September 1848, Millais invited them and a few others to Gower Street for a summit conference.

The young men decided that from now on they would paint exactly how they liked, recapturing the innocence and purity of the early Italian artists whose work they so much admired. They came to a formal agreement and solemnly signed their names to a document outlining their new creed.

HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 74. What name did these young artists give their new movement at 7 Gower Street?

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Five Days That Shocked the World

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