Friday, July 31, 2009

Bruce James Talbert Gothic Hall

Bruce James Talbert was considered by many of his contemporaries to be the leading designer and decorator of interiors of his period. His career spanned the 1860s right up to his death in 1881. Talbert was a broad designer and included furniture, textiles, metalwork, wallpaper, carpets and tapestry as well as planned interiors within his design career.

Bruce James Talbert Drawing Room 1868

The interior illustrations shown here from the late 1860s, show Talbert's typical solid rooms with an emphasis on his vertical and horizontal structuring, and although the rooms are set out in a Gothic revival style, they are less like the typical High Victorian Gothic that entailed many flourishes and structural decoration. By physically changing the interior dimensions and structure of a room, the imposition of successive decorative schemes could prove problematic. Talbert's rooms, on the other hand, could quite easily have been stripped of all their surface decoration, in order to be portrayed in another style entirely. Talbert's interiors maintained the solid vertical and horizontal lines as a standard on which fashionable, but often transient decorative styles could be overlaid.

This also applied to Talbert's furniture which largely took the vertical and horizontal planes as their inspiration and guide. This all meant that both furniture and decorative walls, floors and ceilings were easily matched and gave an overall feeling of solidity and space as they were all part of a subtle grid, while still remaining transitory enough to be moved and remade in another style.

Bruce James Talbert Gothic Hall 1868

A case in point is Talbert's later interest in Japonisme and the Anglo-Japanese interior decorative styles. His Japanese inspired interiors were roughly the same standard ones that had been part of his Gothic period, but with a oriental rather than medieval theme. Many have seen Talbert as a die-hard Goth that merely paid lip-service to other styles and decorative themes. However, to Talbert, the original Gothic influence gave him the idea and the strategy for a timeless, sturdy and geometrically clear space in which to build the decorative style upon. As long as he maintained an aspect of the vertical and horizontal structure that he had imposed on the interior, it would remain unchanged and serve as a clean but solid canvas on which to hang all future decorative displays. It was this crucially designed background that allowed Talbert to use different fashionable templates while retaining the integrity of the interior.

Had Talbert lived, he died in his early forties, he would have no doubt have maintained the interior structure, imposing more and more decorative styles as the century progressed and eclectic interiors became more varied and complicated. This implies that Talbert's interior decoration was very often skin deep and transient, but in fact it was his imposition of the vertical and horizontal grid like effect on to the rooms structure as well as its furniture and accessories, that always maintained the room as a constant and the decorative effects that much easier to impose, maintain and then discard.

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