William Logsdail (1859-1944) was born in Lincoln where he studied at the Art School under Edward R. Taylor (1838-1912) before going onto further studies in Antwerp. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1877 as well as at Suffolk Street. He was not a member of the Newlyn School but his plein-air style and rustic subjects reflect their influence. In 1887, after an extended visit to Egypt, Logsdail settled in Primrose Hill to begin the series of London views by which he is now best remembered. In his memoirs he noted: 'I had always thought that London, of all places in the world, ought to be painted, but it appeared too formidable, too unassailable...I do not wonder that so few have even dared to touch it. However, I did not take courage to try and leave a few records of it, only after a very few years to acknowledge myself beaten.'
This picture is probably a study for the painting entitled St. Martins-in-the-Fields exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1888 (no. 548), and now in the Tate Gallery (no. 1621), having been bought by the Chantry Bequest for £600 in the same year. Although the pictures share the same viewpoint, the present work lacks the figures in the foreground. Another version of the painting in the Tate Gallery was sold at Christie's London, on 14 March 1997, lot 148 (£57,700).
Logsdail painted much of the Tate picture from a horsedrawn wagon parked opposite Moreley's Hotel and looking north across Trafalgar Square. He had originally intended a snow scene, and although the weather did not co-operate, it was bitterly cold. He recalled: 'My van with its tarpaulin roof and open back and front made a sufficiently uncomfortable studio...With my frozen feet embedded in the straw I struggled there off and on through an inclement winter. The principal figures were of course done in the open air of the quadrangle of Primrose Hill Studios.