The International Exhibition of 1862

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The International Exhibition of 1862

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The International Exhibition of 1862 - Victoria and Albert Museum
Auteur: Her Majesty's Stationery Office
Imprimeur : The Curwen Press
Année de sortie : 1962
Langue : Anglais
Pages: 36

The International Exhibition of 1862
The International Exhibition of 1862

Introduction by H. W.

THE DECORATIVE ARTS AT THE INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION OF 1862

This picture-book was first issued in conjunction with the exhibition ‘London 1862’, which was mounted in 1962 by the Circulation Department of the Museum. This commemorative exhibition covered a considerable range of art objects from a number of sources, but the material illustrated in this book has been deliberately limited to examples of the decorative arts which, with the exception of the sideboard on Plate 27, are all to be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was thought wiser to omit objects borrowed for the occasion from private sources, which may not always be available for study, and to omit the fine arts which cannot be studied in a few examples. On the other hand a contemporary photograph has been included to represent the new popularity of photography and to give a visual impression of the interior of the 1862 buildings.

The International Exhibition of 1862 did not capture the public imagination so strongly as its predecessor of 1851. It was, however, even larger than the Exhibition of 1851 and was perhaps the most impressive exhibition to be mounted in London during the nineteenth century. It came on the crest of the wave of Victorian assurance. ‘We may not be more moral,’ wrote John Hollingshead in the Illustrated Catalogue, ‘more imaginative, nor better educated than our ancestors, but we have steam, gas, railways, and power-looms, while there are more of us, and we have more money to spend.’ In the Exhibition the arts were but one element among a vast concourse of materials and gadgets of every sort.

The Exhibition was at first intended to take place in 1861, as the second of a series of international exhibitions at ten-year intervals ; but the strife in Italy, which was to bring forth the modern Italian state, caused the Exhibition to be deferred until 1862. Meanwhile the Prince Consort, who had been greatly concerned in the preparations, died in December 1861 and, in consequence, the Exhibition was denied the asset of an opening by reigning royalty. The buildings were designed by Captain Francis Fowke of the Royal Engineers and were erected mainly on the site of the present Natural .History Museum extending northwards towards Kensington Gore. They were intended to be permanent exhibition buildings, but the principal range, fronting on Cromwell Road, was pulled down within two years; a hundred years later the last fragment on the Queen’s Gate side is about to be demolished.

The Exhibition was organised under the aegis of the Society of Arts. The Victoria and Albert Museum, known then as the South Kensington Museum, was closely connected with its organisation through the activities of Henry Cole who may be regarded as the Museum’s first Director. Standing on its present site the Museum was separated only by Exhibition Road from the buildings of the Exhibition, and it is interesting to notice that the Museum buildings of the time were mainly due to the design of the same Captain Fowke. Many objects were bought by the Museum; many were given, either directly or, later, through the Jermyn Street collection, which was absorbed by the Museum at the beginning of the present century.

The objects shown in the Exhibition naturally tended to be especially big and elaborate. This tendency of all exhibition material was particularly marked since the 1863 Exhibition came as the apogee of the High Victorian style of elaborated pastiche: many of the illustrations in this book show the developed use of historical motifs, notably from the Renaissance and Classical Antiquity. But every flowering of a dominant style contains the seed of later developments. In the 1862 Exhibition was to be found a Japanese stand, which was in large measure responsible for the remarkable development of the Japanese style in this country during the ’seventies and ’eighties. Another point of departure lay in the Mediaeval Court of the Exhibition, which represented the last of the religious Gothic manner and the emergence of a new mediaeval style of secular inspiration. Perhaps the most significant in the Exhibition were the items of ‘mediaeval’ furniture shown by Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. : with these came the first impact on the public of William Morris’s ideas and the first shadowy beginnings of the Arts and Crafts movement of modern times.

H.W.


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