Chair

ca. 1885 (made)
Chair thumbnail 1
Chair thumbnail 2
+5
images
Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
This chair is a simplified version of Godwin's designs for chairs in the Greek style which he produced from 1885. It was available in four different versions, with or without arms, either with upholstered back and seat and turned legs, like this example, or with wooden seat and back and plain legs.

Design & Designing
Drawings in Godwin's sketchbook shows that this range of Greek-style furniture was inspired by his study of antiquities in the British Museum, particularly by a stool taken from the Elgin Marbles, and by a classical couch illustrated in the Dictionnaire des arts grecques, published in Paris in 1873.

Time
Godwin's earliest record of Greek furniture designs is a payment for work for the trade in his ledger in 1876. By 1885 he had developed ideas for a range of furniture in the Greek style, including an elaborate armchair made of rosewood which he illustrated in the periodical Building News on 29 May. On 18 December he illustrated a group of inexpensive furniture, including this chair, in the same periodical.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Chair
  • Drop-in Seat
Materials and Techniques
Ebonised oak, with turned decoration on the legs; modern upholstery
Brief Description
Chair, oak, ebonised and turned, with replacement leather back and seat cover; designed by E.W. Godwin and possibly made by William Watt, British about 1885.
Dimensions
  • Whole height: 103.5cm
  • Whole width: 38.5cm
  • Whole depth: 51cm
Production typeLimited edition
Gallery Label
  • This is a variation of Godwin's famous Greek Chair. In style it in no way relates to his Anglo-Japanese pieces shown here.(1993)
  • British Galleries: The designer E.W.Godwin described this chair as 'Greek', but it is very similar in style to his Anglo-Japanese furniture of the 1860s, which used elements of Japanese construction.(27/03/2003)
  • International Arts & Crafts The designers of the Aesthetic Movement, such as Godwin, looked beyond Europe for inspiration. This chair is classical in form but draws on Japanese construction techniques in the square section of the seat rail. The designers of the Arts & Crafts Movement returned to European models, both British and Medieval.(17/03/2005)
Credit line
Given by Mrs Katherine Godley
Object history
Godwin's design for this chair was published in The Building News, 18th December 1885, p.1011, 'Working Drawings of Inexpensive Furniture...Made by William Watt'. The drawings were annnotated to show different versions of the chair, one of which had arms, and that the stuffed back and seat could be covered in stamped leather or in a patterned fabric.



Godwin's design has been called a 'Greek' chair because of the turned legs which he may have based on the legs of stools shown in the Parthenon frieze at the British Museum recorded in his sketchbook (V&A E.472-1963). Below this sketch are brief details of published illustrations he might have used, The Dictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques et Romaines, edited by Charles Dahremberg and Edmond Saglio, published in Paris from 1873, the first volume A-C being finally completed in 1886.



The Museum's example of the chair is one of three with the same provenance from Elizabeth, Lady Kilbracken and her daughter, Katherine Godley. The second is in a private collection and the third was with H. Blairman & Sons Ltd., London, 2000. The example with Blairmans has an enamel plaque on the underside of the frame, 'HEIRLOOM WILLIAM WATT'S REPRESENTATIVES TRADEMARK REGISTERED 10 & 12 GRAFTON STREET GOWER STREET LONDON W.C.' This refers to the new firm, whose owners bought Watt's business after his death in 1885 and moved the premises from 21 to 10 & 12 Grafton Street. This new firm closed 1887-8.
Summary
Object Type
This chair is a simplified version of Godwin's designs for chairs in the Greek style which he produced from 1885. It was available in four different versions, with or without arms, either with upholstered back and seat and turned legs, like this example, or with wooden seat and back and plain legs.

Design & Designing
Drawings in Godwin's sketchbook shows that this range of Greek-style furniture was inspired by his study of antiquities in the British Museum, particularly by a stool taken from the Elgin Marbles, and by a classical couch illustrated in the Dictionnaire des arts grecques, published in Paris in 1873.

Time
Godwin's earliest record of Greek furniture designs is a payment for work for the trade in his ledger in 1876. By 1885 he had developed ideas for a range of furniture in the Greek style, including an elaborate armchair made of rosewood which he illustrated in the periodical Building News on 29 May. On 18 December he illustrated a group of inexpensive furniture, including this chair, in the same periodical.
Bibliographic References
  • Edward Joy, The Country Life Book of English Furniture. London: Country Life Ltd., 1964, illus. fig.
  • Miyajima, Hisao (ed.), British design at home : the Victoria & Albert Museum [英国のモダン・デザイン : インテリアにみる伝統と革新 : ヴィクトリア & アルバート美術館展 : Eikoku no modan dezain : interia ni miru dentō to kakushin : Vikutoria & Arubāto Bijutsukan ten], Ōsaka : NHK Kinki Media Puran, 199440
  • Livingstone, Karen & Parry, Linda (eds.), International Arts and Crafts, London : V&A Publications, 2005
Collection
Accession Number
CIRC.258:1, 2-1958

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record createdJuly 17, 1998
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