The Work of William Kent
In recognition of the ‘Designing Georgian Britain’ exhibition at the V&A detailing the work of Georgian designer William Kent, here are some aspects of his life and work that led to a highly recognised era of design.
Kent was adept in many endeavours, beginning as a painter and then later turning his creativity to interior decoration, metalwork, architecture, furniture and costume design to name but a few. He was instrumental in bringing a new design aesthetic to Georgian Britain, one of extravagance, gilt surfaces and intricate curvilinear form.
William Kent designed complete interiors for considerable houses such as Houghton Hall in Norfolk and Wanstead House in Essex. Firstly Kent would create comprehensively detailed drawings of the interiors, down to the finite details of the paintings that would hang on the walls. Seeing these drawings close up, they looked like miniature worlds in a tiny scene. The sketches gave a sense of what the room would look and feel like, and also show Kent’s varied accomplishments.
In the 1730s and 40s, Kent imagined the concept of the ‘English landscape garden’, some still survive and can be seen today, including one at Stowe House in Buckinghamshire, now owned by the National Trust. Influenced by design styles from the Orient and the Antique; with elements such as ruins and temples that sit in an often foreshortened vista. Kent believed that: ‘all gardening is landscape painting’, his gardens as well as being elegant and aesthetically pleasing were places for seclusion and contemplation as well as for active pursuits.
Holkham Hall, Marble Hall in Norfolk: Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Stowe landscape Garden, Buckinghamshire: Image courtesy of the Telegraph, photo by Rob Judges