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Design Reform & The Aesthetic Movement


We've now added the third of our extended articles to our History Section - although chronologically this one goes before the other two! This one on Design Reform & The Aesthetic Movement (catchy title!). The Design Reform with its roots back in the 1830s gave rise to the Aesthetic Movement which was popular in the 1870s and 1880s. There are a number of designers associated with this movement, notably Owen Jones and Edward William Godwin - however, of the designers of the period, I think Christopher Dresser is probably the best known.

It was love of Linthorpe Pottery that first got me to take a closer look at Dresser's designs. There are not many of his designs I don't like and his designs, especially in metalware, were so far ahead of his time we'd considered them as 'modern' today. Reading further material on Dresser for the article made me admire him even more. His achievements in botany given his relatively narrow childhood education (starting design school aged 13) are noteworthy - teaching himself, publishing well-regarded books and being awarded a doctorate, all in botany. This before his first passion (ornamentation) thankfully took him back into design.

I also had not fully appreciated the legacy that Design Reform has left us. By establishing the Government Design Schools, it of course provided a route for aspiring designers and enabled development of the many styles across ceramics, textiles, etc that we appreciate today. But what it also did was to give the foundation for the many Schools and Colleges of Art that survive today. It was also the start for many of our valued museums.

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