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V&A acquires archive of Pugin drawings

Pugin’s design for a stained glass window in the Houses of Parliament [All images © V&A Museum]

The drawings include details of Pugin’s work on the Palace of Westminster and the Great Exhibition of 1851

The drawings were previously in private hands and relate to his collaboration with the Birmingham-based manufacturer John Hardman & Co.

The 700 drawings – which range in date from the late 1830s until 1851 – are working design drawings in Pugin’s hand. Many are signed and dated by Pugin himself. They range from initial sketches in pencil to finished presentation designs rendered in watercolour. Many are heavily annotated and offer insights into the architect’s design process. The designs bear testimony to the essential role which drawing played in Pugin’s practice, and document in tremendous detail the close collaborative relationship between Pugin and Hardman & Co.

Olivia Horsfall Turner, senior curator of architecture and design at the V&A , said: “This is a remarkable group of drawings which compellingly convey Pugin’s creativity and the remarkable number of projects in which he was involved. Still smelling of Hardman’s workshop, they reveal the process of collaboration between designer and manufacturer that was essential to the successful realisation of Pugin’s imaginative designs. To bring these drawings into the collection, where they can be studied alongside our existing holdings of drawings and sketchbooks by Pugin opens up exciting research opportunities that will enrich our understanding of Pugin’s work and make connections with buildings and collections across the country.”

Jenny Waldman, director of art fund, said: “These drawings offer a spectacular insight into the design process of one of the most significant architects and designers of the 19th century. I’m thrilled that Art Fund has been able to help this vast archive of great historical and cultural significance enter the permanent collection at the V&A, where Pugin’s designs will be studied, celebrated, and continue their influence today”.

Drawing of a reliquary preserved by French sisters at Namur
Drawing of a reliquary preserved by French sisters at Namur

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812–52) is considered by many as one of the most significant architects, designers and architectural theorists of the 19th century, promoting a Gothic revival style and paving the way for the Arts & Crafts movement in Britain and America.

The drawings contain designs for metalwork, furniture, and stained glass for numerous projects including notable designs for the Palace of Westminster (where he supported Charles Barry) and the Great Exhibition of 1851; ecclesiastical projects including St Giles’ Cheadle, Ely Cathedral, St Mary’s Clapham, and Ushaw Seminary; and private houses including Alton Towers (the original, not the theme park) and Chirk Castle.

Pugin's design for a candlestick with hexagonal base and three feet
Pugin’s design for a candlestick with hexagonal base and three feet

The designs – which were purchased by Private Treaty Sale earlier this year – will join the Prints & Drawings collection at the V&A, which houses one of the largest holdings of works by Pugin and the Pugin family in any public or private collection, numbering more than 1,100 drawings. The V&A also has several examples of furniture designed by Pugin, including the armoire displayed in the Medieval Court at the Great Exhibition.

The archive was acquired with support from Art Fund, The Rick Mather David Scrase Foundation, The Friends of the National Libraries and The Murray Family, with additional support from Bonhams.

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