Many great artists found refuge in London after fleeing tumult in France. Their sensational landscapes – beautifully capturing its streets, waters and winter snows – are the highlight of a major new exhibition at Tate Britain
Commemorative plaques on buildings frequently take us by surprise, providing an immediate bridge to the past. This is particularly so with foreign visitors to these shores who gained international reputations. There is a plaque on a house in Ramsgate where Vincent van Gogh lived briefly in 1876. In London, despite the blitz and constant redevelopment, there are still rich pickings – Canaletto in Soho, the boy Mozart in Ebury Street, Chopin in St James's Place, Van Gogh, again, in Stockwell, Kurt Schwitters in Barnes and Picasso in Covent Garden, where a non-blue plaque, easily missed, on a warehouse in Floral Street proclaims his painting there of the scenery for Ballets Russes's The Three-Cornered Hat in 1919. Picasso stayed at the Savoy and knew that Claude Monet had stayed there too, to paint the the Thames from its windows.
Tate Britain's forthcoming show Impressionists in London, French Artists in Exile (1870-1904) explores in detail the residence of many French painters and sculptors in London, especially Monet and Camille Pissarro, who came in 1870-71 to escape the Franco-Prussian war, with France defeated at Sedan and the subsequent Paris Commune.