THE WALL PANELLING DESIGN WORKS OF ROBERT ADAM
The Gothic work of the xviiith century is too fugitive to demand our serious study here. Its interest centres first in the romanticism of Horace Walpole, whose activities at his villa at Strawberry Hill are well known, and culminates in Wyatt's extraordinary achievements at Fonthill for Beck ford (1796-99) and at Ash ridge Park (1806-13). There are not a few late xvuith century churches which were built with a wall panelling design Gothic intention, interesting experiments because in spite of themselves, they savour so much more of their own century than of the past, but the first that can be counted as belonging to the “Revival " is St. Luke's, Chelsea, by James Savage, built in 1820. The Georgian taste for Gothic, like that for grottos, artificial ruins, and Chinoiserie must be reckoned as a craving for the bizarre and exotic, amid the restraint and self imposed ascetics of their serious architecture. It was little more than by-play and an indulgence of the moment of no real account in the history of the art.
ADAM AND WYATT
Robert Adam's wall panelling work is attractive and often ambitious. His designs for the Admiralty screen, Whitehall, and Poultney Bridge, Bat, are beautiful compositions and his large mansions expanded the monumental plans of his predecessors. The Redcliffe Observatory, Oxford (Fig. 141), is a fine exercise in this new classical vogue. Wyatt, the designer of Gothic palaces, was equally at home with the style adopted by Robert Adam, and others who worked on the same lines were Thomas Lever ton, Thomas Baldwin and George Dance. We have already mentioned that rooms, bays and recesses of curved shape (on plan) were being increasingly introduced at this time, and many of these curves were elliptical, giving a softened contour to the floor and ceiling. Doors and windows were formed within arches, leaving a curved strip between them and the opening of the arch, or triple groups were formed beneath one arch. These arches, too, were sometimes elliptical. Plaster ornament could be introduced on the unpierced surfaces. Over the doors, within the tympanum of the arch, were fanlights of metal designed in cobweb fashion, and fine laced ironwork. Wrought and cast, was used lavishly in the period of the Regent: in the balconies of the stuccoed houses. Within the rooms. Applied ornament of plaster was employed in plenty-enriches cornices and friezes, wall panelling of ornamental design or of classical filer subjects on the walls, and a network of plaster reliefs on the ceilings. The chimneypieces, in their cornices of many small members, friezes, architraves and side pilasters, were covered with a texture of carving, often applied by means of a plaster as fine as gesso. But seldom is there any suggestion of rococo in this ornament, flowing lines even are excluded ; the whole is evenly set, severe in outline, and so low in relief that it never interferes with the shape of the apartment. Whereas much of the earlier Georgian decoration was definitely disturbing, especially where the French influence was evident, this wall panelling decoration of the later period is quiet and doubt as to its success in dressing the interior with just enough interest to give point and charm to the space contained by the room, which is the chief criterion of effective treatment. Adam and his contemporaries enlisted the services of many able artists in modelling their conventional ornament and figure panels, and Flax man and Wedgwood produced numbers of reliefs for this purpose. The control of the general effect by a consistent purpose, the intrinsic interest of the wall panelling ornament, which in certain cases was cast from the antique, the variety in the arrangement of the lines on which it is columns or pilasters occur they are widely spaced, and pediments are made to spread to twice their normal width. Curved bay windows and embower fronts, and the omnipresent balcony are the main features. Shop fronts were especially amenable to the new methods of composition (Fig. 147). Architecture, it is obvious, is to be the servant of comfort and convenience, and what merit it can reach, must come with a frank acceptance of the material needs. The story of English building ends thus on a note that is by no means heroic, and on one that we must confess, if we enter these houses, is one of decadence. A great building age had come, with a thousand problems to be solved, but the nation in general had lost interest in architecture. The practitioners of the art were still doing excellent work, but their clients were becoming mercenary, and the learned were preparing to fight mock battles over the respective merits of the wall panelling Gothic and the Classic styles
WALL PANELLING DESIGNS FOR INTERNAL DECORATION
WALL PANELLING DESIGNS CHANGE OF TASTE ELEMENTS OF DECLINE
THE VALUE OF TRADITION IN WALL PANELLING DESIGNS
It was the beginning of the eclipse which was to last 100 years, until the general interest was again to be aroused and _the old problems were to be studied anew, in changed conditions and with the resources of the builder multiplied a hundred-fold. Yet in the midst of our new-found knowledge we know that the wisdom and the achievement of our fathers must still be our chief lesson book, and the story of the past must be read and re-read if we are to use our means with success. There has been a long break in tradition, but some threads of wall panelling design still hold, and as the years pass we discover more and more of their value. The past is not dead for it still lives and will ever live in the present.