Pugin and the Gothic Revival

A Pair of English Oak Folding Chairs in the style of A.W.N Pugin, Circa 1860

While Gothic Revival has roots in the 18th century with early proponents such as Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill, William Kent at Esher Place, and Thomas Chippendale in his furniture designs, the movement truly culminated in the 19th century. One of those great designers working in the antiquarian tradition was Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. His work and collaboration with John Gregory Crace had a lasting effect on furniture and decorative arts.

Chairs designs from Oficina Arcularia by Crispijn de Passe the Younger printed in Amsterdam, 1642.

The form of the present chairs derives inspiration from a set of engravings from Oficina Arcularia by Crispijn de Passe the Younger, 1593-1670, first published in Amsterdam in 1642.

De Passe’s drawings were known and used by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, 1812-1852, one of great leaders bringing Gothic Revival to prominence in England during the first half of the 19th century. After the Palace of Westminster burned in the Fire of 1834, architect Charles Barry won the competition to rebuild the Houses in Parliament in what was to be one of the greatest secular Gothic commissions of the century. He chose Pugin to help design the interiors and decorative furnishings. Using de Passe’s engravings as a model, Pugin designed a set of sixteen chairs for the Prince’s Chamber, completed in 1847 in preparation for a visit from Queen Victoria.

Princes’ Chamber Chair, Westminster by A.W.N Pugin, 1847

Princes’ Chamber Chair, Westminster designed by A.W.N. Pugin, 1847

Lower Library at Chatsworth

Drawing Room at Eastnor Castle

Drawing Room at Knebworth House

Pugin and Crace

Working in close collaboration with Pugin on the Westminster commission in 1847 was John Gregory Crace, of the long established family firm, Crace & Son, founded in 1768 by his great-grandfather Edward Crace, last keeper of the royal pictures to George III. Already by 1844, Pugin and J.G. Crace were working partners in interior decoration utilizing the former’s novile designs and drawing from the latter’s experience. Notable projects include sumptuous private houses such as Chatsworth, Eastnor Castle, Knebworth House and the Medieval Court at the London Exhibition of 1851. After the death of Pugin in 1852, Crace archived many of his drawings and continued to produce his designs into the 1860’s.