Architectural Colour in British Interiors, 1615-1840

Ian C. Bristow

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Paint is ephemeral: it fades and discolors and is obliterated by succeeding phases of redecoration. Until recently, this has presented a significant obstacle in researching the architectural colours used in British interiors of earlier centuries but, in this study, Ian C. Bristow combines information from documentary sources with data obtained from the technical investigation of significant interiors by important architects of the period. He has thus been able to establish a coherent outline of true historical practice, which hs here presented for the first time.

Bristow contrasts the noble interiors of Inigo Jones with more intimate spaces of the period. He then sets the succeeding drabness adopted in many rooms in the second half of the seventeenth century against the era's taste for marbling, graining, and imitation Japan. Moving on to consider the eighteenth century, he shows how the new foundation established by the Palladians came to provide the basis for the lively use of colour by Robert Adam and his contemporaries. Finally he examines how the development of colour theory in the early nineteenth century superseded eighteenth-century ideas and, combined with the Regency taste for the exotic, led to an entirely new outlook, much of which has lasted to the present day. Bristow's book is an essential complement to more conventional architectural studies of form and space and a key text for students of all aspects of the historic interior.

Ian C. Bristow is an architect and specialist consultant in the redecoration of historic interiors.

"Two welcome and necessary books."—Dana Arnold, Architects Journal

"A book set to become the definitive work and to demonstrate that reading about paint can be a lot more interesting that watching it dry. . . . Full of treasures unearthed in old, obscure sources. . . . The book is excellently illustrated with, among other things, exquisite washes by James Wyatt and Robert Adam."—Edward Peacock, House & Garden

"[This book] will be the standard reference on this subject for the foreseeable future. It is difficult to imagine any others which would be likely to supplant them. The literature on this developing area of interest will continue to grow, but all will follow in the shadow of these outstanding works. Highly Recommended."—Institute of Historic Building Conservation

"This is a well-researched and definitive analysis of all the colours used to decorate great palaces and public buildings for over two centuries. And despite ample photography to illuminate this, what gets to the heart of the matter in the first volume are the pen and wash drawings of ceilings, walls, windows and other aspects of interior design."—Interior

"Bristow has focused our attention on this fascinating subject in a way that has never been attempted before. It is a welcome start. He has been remarkably generous with colour illustrations, some never published before, and has taken great care in choosing them."—Eileen Harris, Perspectives

"The book . . . is remarkable for two reasons. It embodies an enormous amount of research over the years and at the same time produces an alternative history of architecture that traces the development of the us of colour in interiors."—Margaret Richardson, Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England

"Although each of the two volumes stands alone, and can certainly be read without reference to the other, not to read both is to miss out on a wealth of information that is at the fingertips of very few people."—Sarah Staniforth, Studies in Conservation

"Rewarding. . . . My copies are already well thumbed, and it will be many years before we see a work on the subject as useful."—Patrick Baty, World of Interiors

ISBN: 9780300038668
Publication Date: September 25, 1996
Publishing Partner: Published for the Paul Mellon Center for Studies in British Art
288 pages, 9 x 12
50 b/w + 166 color illus.