Stacey_Sloboda_TheGrammarofOrnamentCosmopolitanismandReforminBrit[retrieved-2018-08-28] (1).pdf - Journal of Design History Vol 21 No 3

Stacey_Sloboda_TheGrammarofOrnamentCosmopolitanismandReforminBrit[retrieved-2018-08-28] (1).pdf

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223 Journal of Design History Vol. 21 No. 3 doi:10.1093/jdh/epn025 © The Author [2008]. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Design History Society. All rights reserved. Advance Access publication date 4 August 2008 In 1856, Owen Jones published The Grammar of Orna- ment with an admonishment to readers that ‘[n]o im- provement can take place in the Art of the present generation until all classes, Artists, Manufacturers, and the Public, are better educated in Art, and the exis- tence of general principles is more fully recognized ’. 1 To that end, thirty-seven universal principles of design, or what he called ‘Propositions ’, introduce the book, which was divided into twenty chapters organized geographically and chronologically. One hundred vi- brantly illustrated folio plates comprising multiple ex- amples of ornament drawn from actual models of architecture, ceramics, textiles, stained glass and other applied arts formed the centrepiece of each chapter [ 1 ]. These plates provided a visual essay that, in conjunc- tion with the Propositions and the introductory text written by Jones and other experts at the beginning of each chapter, argued for an essential unity of basic de- sign principles across culture. 2 Part design manual, part aesthetic treatise, part luxury art object, The Grammar of Ornament was lexicon for a new industrial, imperial culture that was in search of a suitably modern style. 3 One of the more perplexing aspects of the book to present-day readers is the extent to which it offers up the ornament of historically and culturally distant cul- tures as objects of emulation at the same time that it seeks conceptual and categorical mastery over those cultures. As a result, the book has been read as both an orientalist instrument of imperial ideology and as a subversion of that ideology. 4 The cultural and intel- lectual framework of cosmopolitanism is a useful guide toward untangling this contradiction. Tied to the politics of both reform and imperialism, The Grammar of Ornament provided principles for Victo- rian design that were consistent with the industrial and imperial worldview of a radical group of politi- cians, designers and clients associated with the design reform movement of the mid-nineteenth century. At The Grammar of Ornament : Cosmopolitanism and Reform in British Design Stacey Sloboda At the Great Exhibition in 1851, British designers were rendered mute in the face of overwhelming evidence that nearly every country in the world had a more coherent and culturally integrated style of design than that of Victorian Britain. One response by reformers in Britain was to create a modern language of design based on studies of international and historical ornament. Among the most important results of this effort was the orientalist scholar and architect Owen Jones’ 1856 publication, The Grammar of Ornament . The book contained 100 dazzling chromolithograph plates of multiple examples of patterns from around the world and a series of ‘Propositions’ that codified
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