'The Liverpool Cityscape', Ben Johnson, 2008

huge detailed painting of Liverpool, seen from a vantage point high above the river

© Ben Johnson 2008. All Rights Reserved. DACS.

Ben Johnson was commissioned to create The Liverpool Cityscape for the Capital of Culture year in 2008. He started the painting in 2005 and completed it during a public residency at the Walker Art Gallery in early 2008. It was originally displayed at the Walker as part of the exhibition Ben Johnson's Liverpool Cityscape 2008 and the World Panorama Series, along with several of his other cityscapes.

The painting is now part of National Museums Liverpool's permanent collection. From 2009 until 2011 it was displayed at the Walker Art Gallery before moving to its permanent home in the Museum of Liverpool. You can see it on the first floor, near to Education Area 3.

Painting the cityscape

Johnson spent more than three years painting the cityscape, working mainly in his London studio with 11 assistants. To prepare he visited Liverpool, found the best viewpoints, studied the architecture, talked to local experts, made drawings and took over 3,000 photographs.

Each featured building was 'drawn' on a computer. Combined, these drawings created an actual size 'plan' of the painting. Every drawing was analysed and broken down to create several separate stencils for each building: for the brickwork, the window frames, the glass and so on. The stencils were carefully applied to the canvas using 'notches' to position them exactly.

The painting was carried out using hand-mixed acrylic paints applied with spray-guns through the stencils. The final touching-in of tiny areas of bare canvas was carried out using a fine paint brush.

See how the painting developed over time, zoom in to take a closer look and find out more about key details in the Liverpool Cityscape interactive, which was created to accompany the 2008 exhibition.

Painting details

  • Acrylic on canvas with 'poly board' backing
  • 244 x 488 cm
  • Accession number WAG 2008.1 


The Liverpool Cityscape was commissioned by National Museums Liverpool, together with the Liverpool Culture Company and Professor Phil Redmond CBE and Mrs Alexis Redmond MBE. Others who have supported the commission are David M Robinson Ltd, Liverpool Vision, Northwest Regional Development Agency, Ethel Austin Property Group, Barbara A McVey, Investec Wealth and Investment, and Beetham Organization.