Friday, December 01, 2006

Creating a Gothic Paradise: Pugin at the Antipodes

Brian Andrews. Hobart: Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. 2002. 246pp. ISBN: 0724672427

Reviewed by Shawn Tribe

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“This is the first comprehensive study of Pugin's Australian ouevre, centred around 280 items including furniture, embroidered silk textiles, carved stonework, metalwork, books, paintings and engravings, architectural drawings and photographs...”

It might not be an unreasonable question, at first thought, to ask what sort of exhibition of Pugin might be put on in Australia, so far from Britain and Ireland where Pugin lived and worked. Indeed, how could the man synonymous with the gothic revival be “exhibited” outside of these confines?

The answer to this particular question lay in the precise strength of this particular presentation of Pugin's work. It must be remembered that while Pugin was most known for his architectural work, there is much more to him than this. Pugin was interested in all the arts and crafts of the gothic revival. As such, he not only designed buildings, he also designed fabrics, papers, tiles, and wallpapers. Specifically, he created vestments, book bindings, liturgical metalwork, and left to the world some very fine engravings of his projects and his vision.

This particular book includes a very nice spectrum of Pugin's architectural drawings, vestments and other textiles, not to mention his metalwork. Moreover, it also includes an examination of those other architects and craftsmen whose work was inspired by Pugin and the Gothic revival.

Each page is filled with beautiful colour reproductions of these items with lengthy descriptions. Being from Australia, rather than Great Britain or the United States, it is a Pugin volume that might easily escape the notice of those interested in his work. However, it is a volume which deserves to sit beside those previously put out by the likes of Paul Atterbury and Clive Wainwright, being equal in quality and interest.

Some images from the book:

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