William Burges and the Making of a Welsh Victorian Camelot | Ghastly Good Taste: A Century of British Interior Design 1880-1980
Historic Seattle is pleased to present two lectures in one afternoon. by Matthew Williams, esteemed curator of Cardiff Castle, who will share this remarkable building and the 19th century designer William Burges who transformed it. Williams will also discuss changes in taste by professionals and the buying public during the 19th and 20th centuries that influenced the design and decoration of homes in Britain and America.
Matthew Williams trained as an art and architectural historian, with a degree in Art History from The University of Nottingham. His post-graduate qualification in Art Gallery and Museum Studies was awarded by The University of Manchester. Williams was appointed as Keeper of Collections of Cardiff Castle in 1990, and became Curator in 1998. A recognized expert on the work of the Gothic revival architect William Burges, he lectures widely on the subject of Victorian design. Matthew has written two guide books to Cardiff Castle, as well as a Pitkin guide on William Burges.
William Burges and the Making of a Welsh Victorian Camelot
Cardiff Castle is one of the most remarkable houses in Britain. Dating from the time of the Romans, centuries of change culminated in the complete transformation undertaken in the 1870s by the Marquess of Bute and his eccentric genius architect William Burges. William ‘Billy’ Burges was short, fat, and bad-tempered. He was also a genius who created some of the most extraordinary buildings of the 19th century. Completely immersed in the world of the Middle Ages, he designed churches, castles, bridges, interiors, furniture, textiles, metalwork and jewelry for his few equally individual clients. With Bute’s extraordinary wealth and his permission to reimagine the castle without a set budget, Burges created a ‘Feudal extravaganza’ in 15 highly imaginative interiors, including an Arab room, a Pompeian roof garden, and rooms with an astrological theme. Matthew Williams examines this wonderful building and the personalities of those involved.
Ghastly Good Taste – A Century of British Interior Design 1880 – 1980
This lecture looks at the enormous changes to British homes over a 100-year period, encompassing aspects of household taste from Victorian clutter to the psychedelic ‘throw away’ furnishings of the 1970s. Although in many ways light-hearted, the lecture examines how social upheaval, war, and technological advances transformed dwelling interiors. From the 1880s, when each interior was governed by strict convention and the home was regarded as a shrine to family life, he looks at how change gradually came about. The coming of electricity and central heating altered appearance and comfort and other major developments in design all changed the interiors and the way in which people lived in their homes.
By 1911, people were referring to ‘Victorian horrors’ and by the 1930s, the taste for unnecessary florid decoration was at an all-time low. In 1931, an exhibition on the subject at the Victoria & Albert Museum was actually intended to be laughable. However, a few influential writers, actors, and intellectuals gradually began to collect, and following the popularity of the ‘Contemporary’ interior style of the 1950s and 60s, an academic interest in the subject became inevitable. By the late 60s and early 70s, largely due to the popularity of television period dramas, a nostalgia-driven rehabilitation in the Victorian past had begun. The National Trust, which until the early 1970s seemed prejudiced against 19th buildings and styles, rapidly re-presented their buildings to appeal to changing popular taste.
While Williams focuses on Great Britain, similar changes and trend-setting movements were experienced in American residential design to reflect social, cultural, technological, and economic shifts. These lectures will get you thinking about regional events that have taken place and how they have influenced local design.
Co-sponsored by Royal Oak Foundation with promotional support from the English Speaking Union.
Photo: Lord Bute’s bedroom, Cardiff Castle / James O. Davies
Registration: $25 members; $35 general public