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St George Cabinet by Philip Webb

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When it comes to the handicraft definition, technique and skills cannot go unmentioned. It is also important to understand that among all the designers involved in the human skill labor defending, the England and America arts and crafts movements have always had a close association. However, this essay is not about these associations. No. it is about understanding the craft originating from the major figures among which the major concern here is William Morris, in relation to the St George cabinet that was designed by Phillip Webb. The two makes the designer and the maker of the famous ST George cabinet. The discussion of major materials and techniques is what this essay highlights in depth. In relation to this essay, the major key areas are; the way the cabinet was exhibited, the relationship between the designer and the maker, innovation and making technique of the craft, the appropriateness to its producing firm and the origin of the materials among other important aspects. All these aspects are incorporated in this essay with an aim of coming out with a conclusive essay solely based arts and crafts.

ST George Cabinet

The materials that were used in making of this cabinet were pine, mahogany oak and copper with technique which was perceived to be gilding and painting. As we will realize in this article, there is little if anything that has since been mention in details with regards to the used materials. This calls for argument in various ways. Some holds that this was perhaps aimed at depicting the expensiveness of the work and materials that were used. In addition, it was during this period that the passion for furniture painting was renewed. Having been borrowed heavily from the gothic origin in the thirtieth century, this art work depicted the subjects of princess, dragon, Morris, ST George, William and ST George legend. The technique that was used for decoration of the interior was the medieval method whose revival was done by William Burges, witnessed on the commissioning of the cabinet which was done in the year 1858 by Yatman H. G.

On the stand lay a cabinet, with the door depicting clear pictures of ST George legend scenes. This work of art was the design of Philip which followed the actual painting that was comprehensively done by William Morris. The exhibitors of this piece of art were Faulker & Co. Marshall, Morris, in the year 1862 at an International Exhibition.

This cabinet presents a rare example of the work that was painted by Morris coupled with being a distinctive large furniture piece of work, depicting a medieval form. The wardrobe of the Prioress depicts the same failure to coordinate between the decoration that was painted and the structure. This cabinet presented the princess rescue by St George in five story scenes which were divided in unequal way between the three doors that the cabinet contained. 

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In the 19th century, Morris had involved himself in manufacturing various pieces that were painted, with an inspiration coming from those that had been designed by his friends in the earlier years; with work whose examples had been nearby exhibited. Looking at the individualities that were exhibited in these two men (Webb and Morris); there is a possibility of one strongly arguing in the sense that in the two, there were genes for doing arts and crafts work. Webb copied the braces that were curved on the bases from the furniture whose initial designs in the late 1840 were done by Pugin. The scenes in the paintings came from the legend (St George), together with the dragon and were inclusive of Morris together with his wife among other characters that the painting depicted. In the year 1862, this piece of art was displayed in an international exhibition in London depicting ST George cabinet but criticisms soared on the basis that the craftsmanship in this work was poor as well as the painting being of second rate.

It has not been possible to identify the maker of the ST George furniture as well as other furniture Morris and his colleagues exhibited in the year 1862. According to what is held from various perspectives, there is a possibility that the manufacture of the cabinet was done in Tommy Baker workshop; a maker specializing in cabinet, based in Hatton Garden, London. The furniture was described by Herry Price (who was one of the employees) in the style that was medieval.

The history and desighn of ST George cabinet

The history of ST George cabinet dates back to 1861 when the designing of the cabinet was initiated. The designing of this cabinet included the materials that were to be used; which were oak and pine with mounts that consisted of copper and mahogany that was painted and gilded. The origin of the mahogany is traced back in Germany where these trees are grown. The only places that the growth of these mahoganies is favored by the climate are in South America Amazon Forest and Africa. What is special about this wood is also another issue that remains to be understood. One, the scarcity of this wood makes it quite expensive. In addition, the mahogany falls under the category of what is referred to as the hard wood and all the characteristics that are found in the hard wood are exhibited in this wood. Therefore, choosing mahogany for the cabinet was based on the fact that its finish is very appealing and through this finish which is quite unique, it can be easily be distinguished from other woods.

Mahogany was also used based on the fact that it is very easy to have decorated. In consideration of the cabinet description, the left side of the door could hardly be painted by Morris with king paintings. Painting a hardwood is only possible with mahogany and other woods can hardly be painted. This wood is known to give an appearance that is glossy and shiny. In addition, the hard woods are not known to attract so much paint or ink; something that Morris, who was the designer, was not aware of. In addition, the waxing of the mahogany can be done one annually.

Let us also look at the pine which was the other material that was used. The classification of wood places the pine in the category of the soft wood. Drawers and shelves were fitted in the interiors of the cabinet. These fitting were done by the use of the pine, which is perceived to be cheap and valuable. It has in addition a high strength in comparison to its weight. The pine being not as heavy in comparison to mahogany was used to ensure that the cabinet was not at long last very heavy. Therefore, using pine for the interior was perceived to be a wise idea. Through the use of the pine, it would even be possible to have the cabinet drawers pulled out very easily. It is also argued that the abundance of the pine was also the key factor for it being used. Accessing the pine in relation to other soft woods is relatively easier therefore not posing any problem to the makers. The fact remains that this cabinet that had to be light in weight and easy when it comes to opening. Based on this idea, it is easy to understand why the pine use in making of the ST George cabinet was very instrumental.

Oak was also another material that was used. Based on the classification of woods, oak falls under the category of hardwood. The high preference for oak was based on its strength and durability. The issue that is mainly noted is that there was to be durability in the materials that were used. If there is some kind of furniture being made by a commercial craftsman, there has to be a room allowance for enhancing repairing. In short, this implies that the craft to be made would be in such a way that after certain period, there would be need for another of its type. This is what has kept the craftsmen in the business for many years.

Basically, the design of the cabinet took a rectangular shape on an erected on a stand together with three doors with each door having a handle made of copper together with a lock plate, with five paintings containing the ST George legendary scenes. Based on the fact that the copper does not lust, it becomes possible to form the basis of the argument in evaluating the reason for its use by Webb. The copper is also known to blend very well with mahogany which was another material that was used to make the ST George cabinet. Copper is in addition not a hard metal which makes it very easy to be designed in the shape that is desired.

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For William Morris, there was posturing by family friend who included Rossetti, who posed as Jane (the wife to Morris) as well as painted figures. Three cupboards divided the cabinet with the front being closed by doors. In the left door, the art was designed in such a way that there were two scenes paintings. In the first painting, there was a display of a seated king in his throne with a trumpet being brown by a herald and the depiction in the second part being that of the princess departure with the men in armor guarding her. In the middle door, there are two scenes painting at the middle of the forest.

In the first one, there was a drawing of a princess being tied to a stake with the second having a depiction of this princess being raised from the ground by St George. In the right hand side of the door, there was an art of ST George return which is designed in such a way that it looks ceremonial with the princess being followed by men with their head bearing dragon. Surrounding the panels are conventional and floral ornament borders. At the cabinet top, the art designed a gallery with each of the corners containing pinnacle. At the cabinet’s interior, there was inclusion fitting of drawers and shelves with handles made of copper. At the fronts of the cabinet’s drawers, there were decorations which contained tinted varnishes layers containing leaf made of silver with a technique that was medieval.

Various medieval features were adopted for the Yatman cabinet, with the inclusion of the roofs that were sloped as well as the doors with the double folding and a technique of the eleventh century revived through the roof being covered with metal leaf layers and paint that was transparent. This is the furniture of William Burges whose distinctiveness is in addition through its painted decoration which was iconographic. With pigeonholes and writing flap fitting, the cabinet was painted with scenes that were thematic incorporated from the medieval and classical history with a literature representation, writing and an alphabet. Its designing was done in such a way that it would be in resemblance of the house that contained four classical scenes painted panels across the middle and ornate designs. The difference with the furniture that was painted by William Morris was that the decorations were always applied by Burges to ensure integrity with the piece structure. The decoration in much of these piece took the form of stenciling, a technique that was directly taken by Burges from the medieval sources. Therefore, it would be appropriate to hold that William Morris used a technique was through the influence of the medieval ages but Burges was inspired in the process.

The designing of the ST George cabinet was during the year 1862 as it has earlier been noted and this work of art was specially meant for the international exhibition in London. The firm was charged by Philip Webb to enhance the designing work with the initial sketches being produced by William Morris for the narrative panels. The process of preparing the cabinet was described by Rossetti which enhanced the display. This was through a letter that was drafted to Charles Eliot on the ninth of January 1862. In this letter, Rossetti expressed his wish to have a look of the painted cabinet in which ST George history was depicted. He also expressed interest in seeing other furniture that was highly valued. The initial price of this cabinet did not allow this art design piece of work to sell and up to the year 1864, the cabinet was still recorded in the stocks of the firm. Until the period in which the collection of Laurence Hodson was sold in the year 1906, there has not been a clear history of this cabinet. The Compton hall was inherited by Hodson in the year 1890 and may have been involved in the acquisition of the cabinet when Morris and Co. was initiated in the year 1895 to facilitate with the decoration of the hall.

Grand sale of the cabinet

The museum purchased the cabinet in the year 1906 from Hodson’s sale. This grand sale followed Charles Murray recommendation; who had been an owner to Morris Sketches. There was a bid by the Dulacher Brothers firm in the representation of museum with a purchase price that was higher than the initial. Later, the Bethnal Brother received the cabinet on July of the year of sale where there were displays of many furniture pieces with an aim of educating the locals on how to be involved in the trades of making furniture. Later, during the year 1932, this cabinet was returned to the Woodwork department where there was an exhibition in an exhibition owned by William Moris (Centenary Exhibition). With the cabinet acquisition during the year 1906, there had been a fixation of a mahogany that was polished on the stand top with the upper section of the cupboard being placed on this board. This board was however indicated to be an addition in the cabinet. With the board removal, it was possible to position the upper part of the cupboard on the stand at the horizontal rail either endings.

This cabinet presents a rare example of work paintings that were made by Morris coupled with being distinctive of the large furniture pieces, with constructions that were medieval closely being linked to the circles of Morris which can be traced back to the year 1858. With the cabinet theme, Morris enthusiasm at his youthful age (which was associated with literature and romance) is embodied. However, the interior decoration provides a strong reminder of the early interest of Morris in the design pattern.

The Red House

The relationship between the designer and maker was that of friendship flourished during designing of the Red House in Kent at the year 1859. Well, it is argued that this might have not been the onset of this well established relationship between a designer and the maker because this relationship is strongly perceived to have started when an abortive pupil age was commenced by Morris in the GE office, where the role of Webb was that of assistance from the year 1854. It is soon after this period that Morris gave up the idea that had always influenced him to being an architect resulting to Webb taking a position of the leading designer in the circle of Morris. By the time the two met, Philip was at the same time apprenticing to the street. Through the Red House, it was possible Webb and Morris to make an establishment of arts and crafts together with the interior design. Consider; this Red House is in the modern world perceived to be a landmark that was historic.

However, this Red House was not perceived anymore as the architectural original work. Well, there can never be any doubt on its status which holds it as the initial great work of the art and crafts monument. However, there is a strong conviction that even before the onset of the firm, there had been a strong friendship between Webb and Morris. Based on this understanding, it is not surprising to realize there was an agreement to have the work done by the two. However, it is not possible to establish a clear sign of a relationship between Morris, Faulkner, Marshall & Co. It is however possible; based on the deductions shown above to say that indeed the piece fitted very well in the firm. The path that was followed by Philip Web had been explored before the 20th century. Therefore, together, Morris and Webb were on the discovery verge. With their emphasis that laid on the form that was basic, good craftsmanship and materials that were sound, it was possible for the two to have spotted that part of the gothic architecture were ornaments and stylish shapes, just as a the iron had been spotted to be beautiful by them.

Through the work that the firm exhibited in the year 1862 during the international Exhibition, much notice was attracted and beginning from the year 1866, there was an onset of profit generation. The funny thing to note is how the firm after the establishment in the year 1861 started generating returns in the year 1866. Based on this perception, it is possible to argue in the sense that it is through ST George cabinet that the firm begun its journey to success. If this course is taken in the argument, it would be possible to view that it only through the results that were realized by these two that there was a break-even in the firm coupled with profit making.

Although there might be a possibility of a weakness, it is not actually believed that such a piece of work can result in a firm becoming a major shaker in the whole industry in consideration that there were other firm that existed and these firms were also in the process of producing products that could enable them to survive the competition. Consider the fact that Morris, having been a painter and his wallpapers having been among the best during these years, this could also have had the possibility of making an influence. When another side of the argument is taken, it can be viewed that it was through the international exhibition combined effort that the fame needed by Morris and Webb was realized. This is based on the understanding that Morris and Webb were aiming at ensuring that there was furthering of their of art and craft foundation in the direction of commercialization.

Based on the commercialization ideal, the firm is perceived to have been aimed at art and craft commercialization. There is also a perception based on the understanding that exhibition use at this juncture was a marketing channel for arts and crafts. Therefore, to ensure the firm being noticed, it had to be involved in such kinds of exhibition.

The art and craft movement resulted from various arts and crafts for example the famous ST George cabinet. The spread of this movement was to all the England towards the end of the nineteenth century. As many holds, this was a reaction that was institutionalized against the misperception that was widespread morally, socially and artistically in the revolution of the industry. From this revolution came the perception of the return to hardware and design as Victorian era goods that were nasty and cheap. William Morris was the movement leader whose advocating was towards purposive fitness, the truth in the material nature as well as the production methods. This is what the fame in the ST George cabinet is based on. Therefore, the ST George cabinet description puts a lot of emphasis on the used materials.

The emergence and flourishing of the arts and crafts movement was simply based on the fact that there was full involvement by the leaders coupled with full dedication to the cause. It is also on this basis that there was commercialization, based on the fact that arts and crafts had been taken by craftsmen and a job that required devotion on fulltime basis and also based on the justification that indeed earning a living was of important.

In conclusion, it can be noted that based on the art and craftsmanship, two gentlemen emerged who revolutionized the industry through a cabinet. This however does not go without being criticized. This is a tread that defines commercialization which up soars numerous reaction and opinions. This study denotes that it is through this tread that results in flourishing of the arts and crafts movement based on the dedication and full involvement of the leaders.

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