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Skill, Style and Innovation: British Furniture Making from the Restoration to the Arts and Crafts Movement

Published by on 14 October 2021

Skill, Style and Innovation: British Furniture Making from the Restoration to the Arts and Crafts Movement

BIFMO is organising a short course on British furniture makers from 3rd November to 1st December. Each week three speakers will consider the history of furniture makers and their manufacture in Britain. Beginning with the Baroque period, the course will move chronologically through the centuries to conclude in December with the Arts and Crafts movement. In addition to dealing with the output of specific furniture makers, this course aims to provide an integrated account of the furniture trade in the context of the cultural, technical and industrial developments that occurred in Britain during these three and a half centuries, while also acknowledging other significant factors such as the role of the patron and the involvement of artists and designers. 

The course forms part of BIFMO’s outreach and educational programme and is intended to introduce the background and context. The talks bring to life the careers and work of some of the most important makers of their time, including Gerrit Jensen in the late 17th century, Giles Grendey, William Vile, Thomas Chippendale and John Linnell in the 18th century, and Thomas Hope, J.C. Crace and Charles Robert Ashbee in the 19th century, as well as less well-known makers; firms of furniture makers, designers and architects.

Drawing of Linnell sofa
Sketch of one of a large pair of sofas for Kedleston Hall by John Linnell, c. 1761-1762 [E.131-1929]. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Considering the history of furniture from the viewpoint of the maker raises interesting questions about how artisans and craftspeople learned their trade and established networks of manufacturers and clientele, thus offering a slightly different perspective from simply considering stylistic or technical developments. Exploring the lives of individuals in the furniture trade gives us a better understanding of their strategies for promotion and success and their own particular interpretation of fashionable designs, all of which deepen our understanding of the intersecting, and often, complex structures that underpin the decoration and furnishing of historic interiors.

The course runs from 4 pm - 7.30 pm (GMT) every Wednesday as follows:

Week 1 - 3rd November - British Baroque Furniture (c. 1660-1715)

  • Dr Wolf Burchard British Baroque Furniture and Furniture Makers
  • Amy Lim The Baroque Interior: furnishing the great London and country houses
  • Dr John Cross The London trade c. 1660- 1720 

Week 2 - 10th November - Early Eighteenth Century & the Furniture Trade (c. 1715-1760)

  • Adriana Turpin Furniture for the London Merchants
  • Professor Jeremy Howard Fantasy and Exuberance: English rococo furniture makers as craftsmen and designers
  • (Speaker tbc) Eighteenth Century Furniture Techniques

Week 3 - 17th November - Architects, Furniture & Patrons (c. 1760-1815)

  • Dr Megan Aldrich The Furniture Maker and the Architect in the Palladian and Neoclassical Periods
  • Lucy Wood London furniture makers in the time of Chippendale.
  • Rufus Bird ‘As refined and classical as possible': George IV and other patrons of British furniture makers in the Regency period 1800-1830

Week 4 -24th November - The Development of Furniture Firms, Historicism and Reform (c. 1815-1860)

  • Dr Max Bryant Beyond Hope: Architects and Furniture in the Age of Historicism and Reform
  • Ann Davies Furniture for the Great Exhibition 1851
  • Max Donnelly Furniture at the London International Exhibition, 1862 (This presentation will not be recorded)

Week 5 - 1st December  - From Manufacture to the Arts & Crafts (c. 1860-1914)

  • Professor Clive Edwards Continuity and change in nineteenth century furniture production.
  • Matthew Winterbottom At Home in Antiquity: furniture designed by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
  • Annette Carruthers Arts & Crafts furniture makers and designers

Tickets can be purchased for individual weeks or for the entire course at a saving. To purchase tickets on our Eventbrite page please click here.

FHS members and ECD members enjoy a further discount on all tickets.

For further information please click here to go to the event’s page on the FHS website.

This course will be recorded and the link to the recording will be sent to ticketholders after the event. Please note that Max Donnelly on 24th November will not be recorded.

We are grateful to the Paul Mellon centre and the Foyle Foundation for their support. Profits from the course will be used to support BIFMO’s research in the next year.

Title Image: Design for a sofa by John Linnell made in the late 18th century [E.120-1929© Victoria and Albert Museum, London