Design & the Decorative Arts Georgian Britain 1714-1837 examines innovations in manufacturing methods, changing tastes and fashion trends in Georgian Britain from tableware to wallpaper and from ceramics to clothing.

The publication is part of a series that includes Britain 1500-1900, Tudor and Stuart Britain 1500-1714 and Victorian Britain 1837-1901. All titles in this range are written and edited by Michael Snodin and John Styles. The publication contextualize items from the V&A's British Galleries and includes many more items than are actually on display.

Design & the Decorative Arts - Georgian Britain 1714-1837
Credit: V&A Publications

Design & the Decorative Arts - About the Book

This is a book about design in Georgian Britain. It is not a book about Georgian history although the Introduction and Foreword touch upon it in order to put artists and designers in their correct historical context. The authors define 'Georgian' as "the pinnacle of elegance and refinement" and have included works by Thomas Chippendale, Robert Adams, Thomas Sheraton, William Hogarth, Joseph Wright, Sir Joshua Reynolds and many others.

The publication asks what is uniquely British about British design between 1714 and 1837. Through a wide variety of objects such as furniture, textiles, clothing, metal wares, ceramics and graphic works, as well as a range of products associated with the phrase 'industrial design', it also asks how that 'Britishness' was constructed. 

Design & The Decorative Arts is divided into four main sections and poses a number of interesting questions: 

  • In Style Michael Snodin asks, "What were the formal aesthetics of different styles?" He defines two prevailing styles. The first recalled ancient Greek and Roman architecture and their Renaissance interpretations including baroque, neo-Palladian and neo-classical styles. The second featured anti-classical styles such as rococo, neo-Gothic and chinoiserie.

  • In Who Led Taste? Snodin asks, "Which people and institutions led taste?" Who said what was fashionable and desirable?

  • In Fashionable Living Snodin asks, "How did new modes of living lead to the design of new types of objects or the increased consumption of existing ones?" What was innovative about their design and construction?

  • In What was new? John Styles asks, "What was new, in terms of products, materials and techniques of manufacture?" What was their place in the wider history of Georgian Britain.


Michael Snodin and John Styles - the Authors

Michael Snodin is former Head of Design in the V&A's Word and Image Department. He has worked on a number of publications including Sir William Chambers: Carl and Karin Larsson - Creators of the Swedish Style (with Elisabet Stavenow-Hidemark and Elisabet Stavenow-Hidemark), and The V&A Book of Western Ornament (all V&A Publications). 

John Styles is closely associated with the Royal College of Art and the V&A. He is the author of several publications including The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England and Threads of Feeling: The London Foundling Hospital's Textile Tokens 1740-1770.

The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England
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A Fascinating and Informative Publication

 This publication is a fascinating and informative read that brings the consumers of Georgian Britain alive through a scholarly, yet easily understood narrative.

Design & the Decorative Arts: Georgian Britain 1714-1837 has been published by The Board of Trustees of the Victoria & Albert Museum, 2004. (ISBN 1 85177 420 1) and priced at £19.95. The publication can be purchased from the V&A Museum shop and all good book stores.


More About Georgian Art and History

If you're looking for more about Georgian society, art and history Georgians Revealed - Life, Style and the Making of Modern Britain or Stowe House and Landscape Gardens - Georgian House Restored for the Nation might be of interest.