1.29.2012

not your grandma's Victorian

perhaps a Josef Hoffman? No! its from 1867!
table by Godwin, 1876. those brass tipped legs!
It's not 1950s Blenko, its 1890 Dresser!
folding chair by Godwin, 1875
chair, Godwin, 1883
chair, Dresser, 1880-83
toast rack, Dresser, 1878
occasional table, Godwin, 1876
Christopher Dresser
Edward William Godwin
Update:  I got a great book suggestion from reader Will Chandler: Nineteenth Century Modern: The Functional Tradition in Victorian Design by Herwin Schaefer, published 1970— a rather early foray into this kind of serious study of Victorian design.
Will elaborates:
His book focuses on the mostly vernacular and mechanical objects made in Europe and the United States (some as far back as the 16th Century)  that inspired many of the early design reform theorists, and outlines their responses to and comments about these sources. The book is heavily illustrated and I've never seen a better exposition of this topic.
Schaefer was the first Design Collection curator at MOMA— so this sounds excellent. It's already on its way to me!

Also, somehow I've managed to be unaware until now that there is an exhibit on “19th century Modern” at the Brooklyn Museum. I marvel at my obliviousness sometimes. I will append any thoughts I have on the exhibit here. //

The other day I came upon a post about architect and design reformer Edward William Godwin (1833 – 1886) on an appealing interiors and design blog called Hunters & Gatherers at Home. I already knew about Godwin, but H&G’s post really reminded me of the revolutionary quality of some of his work. Also included here, the more famous polymath Christopher Dresser (1834–1904). I think these pieces are astonishing.

Godwin picked up architecture on his own. Dresser studied at the then brand new (and oddly fascist sounding) Government Schools of Design. Created in 1837 to better integrate science and art, the school's aim was to improve design for industry and manufacture. Can you imagine? In this country people were too busy displacing Indians, preserving slavery and clearing brush to care about something as rarefied as design. (Perhaps I overstate.)

Godwin steeped himself in Gothic Revival for a time but both he and Dresser really found themselves when they discovered Japanese crafts and decorative arts. Japan opened to trade with the West in 1853, and suddenly Japanese items flooded the market. All the design reformers, artists, and Aesthetic hipsters of the time went Japan-mad. It remained a cultural influence through the rest of the 19th century.//

 Godwin created the crazy sideboard at top in 1867 for his own home. He explained:
"When I came to furniture I found that hardly anything could be bought ready-made that
was at all suitable to the requirements of the case. l therefore set to work and designed a lot of furniture...."
Lest you need reminding, this is the type of thing Godwin might have felt wasn't quite right:
cabinet, Herter Brothers, c. 1872

3 comments:

male said...

Angela, sorry I spied this post and was inundated last week. The cabinet is by a designer E. W. Godwin and made by the firm W. Watt & Son - I've so loved this piece, been to the V&A to view AND in 1973 I commissioned an architect friend here in Brisbane to make me a version for my first graphics studio - Fair Dinkum Graphics.He made a table and two long stools to match, he later on became the Government Architect for Queensland, his name is Gary May.
Here's a link to the piece:
http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O8380/sideboard/
LOve from downunder
mal E + Bh

angela said...

Hi Mal

Thanks for link but I know its Godwin! my caption was just playing faux naif... I'm talking here about Godwin and Dresser.

What I'd really want is a link to photos of YOUR cabinetry!

male said...

Hi back,
The pair of library cupboards and the table are away in storage and pulling on my mind, in fact. When first made they had bright yellow laminex surfaces and edges on the tops and shelves with matching round yellow knobs. 20 years later I changed the surfaces to white plus the knobs. They are in a lock-up housing all the graphic design magazines of the period -Gerbrauchagrakik, Communication Arts, AIGA annuals, D&AD annuals, Penrose annuals, Print Magazine + Twen magazines, ID & Face, USA Vogue . . . all that stuff that consumed me for 40 years or so.
What has been on my mind was to revert the surfaces back to the yellow and sell them, it sounds just what you need for that new apartment? I'll do shots but it might be some time, promise.

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