Neo-Classical Style In England. Characteristics Of Furniture Design During Tail-End Of Eighteenth Century.
In your study of antiques you are well-advised to take a strong look at England during the Neo-classical period of style. This is due to the fact that not only does England possess one of the more interesting art histories during the Neo-classical period, but the prevailing designers were very much attuned to the Neo-classical style. One of the designers whose name invariably comes up during this time period is Robert Adam. The architect’s fame is highly associated with the Neo-classical period.
It may be said Robert Adam employed a classical approach to furniture design much more than the previous designers of classical design, referred to as the Palladians. Like many of the other designers of the time period, Robert Adam studied for his trade in Italy. It was in Italy that he was motivated by the statuary presented pertinent to the civilization of Ancient Rome as well as receiving inspiration from the former classicists. Robert Adam was able to transform Osterley Middlesex by way of redecorating it. Although trained as an architect, he became a furniture designer as well.
Robert Adam is restrictive in his use of classical adornment in furniture design. Ormolu and marquetry were part of Adam’s decoration. Ormolu is making use of tin alloys resembling gold in the decoration of furniture. Marquetry is making use of various veneers and creating patterns of decoration.)
Robert Adam’s creations were copied and adjustments made by respected designers such as cabinet-maker George Hepplewhite, among others. When reviewing furniture of the time period, examples of the work of Adam with modifications applied, may be found in Hepplewhite’s publication: ‘Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Guide published in 1788’.
As far as the style in England during the last twenty years of the 1700s, the design of furniture was lighter, much more refined, and as a result more graceful and delicate. It may be easily noted, the design was symmetrical and there was a good deal of harmony as far as proportion.
Characteristics of furniture design during the tail-end of the eighteenth century include: a) fluted and tapered supports with respect to tables; and, b) Shield-shaped and heart-shaped backs on chairs as well as settees. Further, of significance is decoration inclusive of: a) shells, b) feathers, and wheat ears which prevail within inlays as well as decorations that are painted.
Lastly, the feminine characteristics of Adam’s design are more than obvious within his publication: ‘Cabinet-Maker and Upholsters’ Drawing Books’ dated 1791.