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Oil table lamp
  • Oil table lamp
    Benson, William Arthur Smith, born 1854 - died 1924
  • Enlarge image

Oil table lamp

  • Place of origin:

    Chiswick (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1895 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Benson, William Arthur Smith, born 1854 - died 1924 (designer)
    Benson, William Arthur Smith, born 1854 - died 1924 (manufacturer)
    Morris & Co. (retailer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Brasswork and copper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Miss H. M. Beale

  • Museum number:

    CIRC.21:1 to 3-1961

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125, Edwin and Susan Davies Gallery, case 8 []

Object Type
The brass and copper lamps designed and produced by W.A.S. Benson at around the turn of the 20th century are among his best known pieces. The German architect and critic Hermann Muthesius suggested in Das englische Haus ('The English House') of 1904-1905 that Benson was the first to illuminate dining tables with light reflected from a shiny metal surface, while keeping the actual source of illumination hidden.

Benson was educated at Eton and Oxford and trained in the office of the architect Basil Champneys. Through his friendship with the painter Edward Burne-Jones, he was introduced to William Morris who encouraged him to set up his own metal workshop in 1880. In 1882, he established a foundry in Hammersmith and in about 1887, a shop in Bond Street, London. Benson was a founder member of the Art Workers' Guild, established in 1884 to promote links between architecture and design. Following the death of William Morris in 1896, he became managing director of Morris & Co. (for whom he also designed furniture and wallpaper). Benson's own firm prospered, but during the First World War the factory was entirely converted to producing material for the war effort. By the cessation of hostilities in 1918, Benson had become discouraged and he closed the factory upon his retirement in 1920.

Design & Designing
Benson was admired for the simplicity and clarity of his designs, which made little use of extraneous ornament. He also designed for machine production, openly admiring and exploiting its potential.

Physical description

The lamp consists of a clearly classical base and an extraordinarily inventive shade.

Place of Origin

Chiswick (made)


ca. 1895 (made)


Benson, William Arthur Smith, born 1854 - died 1924 (designer)
Benson, William Arthur Smith, born 1854 - died 1924 (manufacturer)
Morris & Co. (retailer)

Materials and Techniques

Brasswork and copper


Height: 68.5 cm with glass chimney, Width: 40 cm maximum, Depth: 17.9 cm base

Object history note

Designed by William Arthur Smith Benson (born in London, 1854, died in Manorbier, Pembrokeshire, 1924) and made by his factory in Chiswick, London

Descriptive line

Table lamp

Labels and date

British Galleries:
W.A.S. Benson first took up metalwork in 1880 when he set up a workshop in order to produce a range of well-made, simple, copper and brass objects for the home. He was a leading Arts and Crafts figure and helped found the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society in 1888, contributing an essay on metalwork for the first catalogue. [27/03/2003]


Lighting; Metalwork; British Galleries


Metalwork Collection

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