‘Ancient Inspiration for Modern Living: Alexander Thomson and Owen Jones’
Dr Ailsa Boyd
Thursday 21 November 2019, 6.30pm
Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson (1817-1875) and Owen Jones (1809-1874), were architects and designers based in Glasgow and London respectively. Almost direct contemporaries, they were known for their innovative adaptations of the styles of ancient foreign cultures – primarily the Grecian for ‘Greek’ Thomson, and the Islamic for Jones. Both were enthusiastic historians of design but, unlike many Victorian Revivalist architects, they did not merely copy the forms of the past, but developed their own architectural language fit for the modern age. They experimented with new materials, like cast iron and plate glass, and created uniquely dramatic, colourful interiors. They designed the types of buildings required by the commercial Victorian age: villas, tenements, warehouses, bazaars, exhibition halls. Yet both men were idealists, with a profound belief in the importance of architecture and design for society.
This lecture is research in progress, and part of my larger project of examining historicism in Victorian interior design and architecture. It will also provide an illuminating new context for an architect probably familiar to the members of the Glasgow Art Club.
Ailsa Boyd is an independent writer, lecturer, editor and curator, with a particular interest in 19th century art, architecture, interior design and literature. She has been a Research Assistant for University of Glasgow projects including ‘The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler’ and the Stirling Palace Academic Research Consultancy. She has been a curator at the Hunterian Art Gallery and Collins Gallery (University of Strathclyde). She co-founded a contemporary art consultancy (Hunter Fine Art) and has collaborated with Scottish contemporary artists and collectives. Since 2006 she has had a concurrent career in university administration at the University of Glasgow.
Publications include book and exhibition reviews, journalism, commissioned essays for contemporary artists and academic journal articles on: Beatrix Whistler, manuals of household taste, Henry James and art, and Edith Wharton’s approach to interior design. Her most recent publication is ‘”A conscious memento”: The literary afterlives of Henry James’s Lamb House’ in the journal Interiors. She is currently completing a monograph for Palgrave Macmillan, Identity and Domestic Space in Victorian Literature: Houses and Fictions in George Eliot, Henry James and Edith Wharton.
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