Thomas Hope: Regency Designer
"a fascinating amalgam of decorative details, ornament, and influences from antiquity and British and Continental European art, architecture, and design"
Designer, patron, collector, and author Thomas Hope (1769–1831) is one of the major figures in the history of British design and had a profound impact in Britain. Hope helped shape and define what became known as the British Regency, a mode of design and decoration that continues to be influential. Despite the key role he played in the fields of interior decoration, design, and decorative arts, however, Hope’s significance has been largely overlooked. This exhibition examined his incomparable contribution and the remarkable works of art that he collected and that were created under his patronage. It also further extended the Bard Graduate Center’s international reputation for organizing exhibitions on underrecognized aspects of British design culture and history.
The exhibition conveyed how Hope fostered the Regency, a fascinating amalgam of decorative details, ornament, and influences from antiquity and British and Continental European art, architecture, and design. The approximately 140 loans on view revealed the outstanding scope and complexity of Hope’s contribution to the Regency. They included furniture, inspired by models from antiquity and designed by Hope; antique and neoclassical sculpture by Thorvaldsen and Canova, among others, as well as several Roman-Egyptian sculptures; a group of classical vases from the Sir William Hamilton collection; fascinating silver and other metalwork; and the exquisite portrait by Sir William Beechey, Thomas Hope, now in the National Portrait Gallery, London. All were shown against the brilliantly rich backgrounds used by Hope in his own home, Duchess Street, located in London. The exceptional loans came from the Benaki Museum, Athens; British Museum; Huntington Library Art Collections and Botanical Gardens; Metropolitan Museum of Art; National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi; National Portrait Gallery, London; V&A; and the Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen, among others.
Object of the Month
A richly illustrated catalogue, Thomas Hope: Regency Designer, edited by David Watkin and Philip Hewat-Jaboor and published by the Bard Graduate Center with Yale University Press, accompanied the exhibition. The book contains previously unpublished material that reveals the multifaceted nature of Hope’s influence on the British Regency in 15 scholarly essays, from “Thomas Hope and the Neoclassical Revolution” (Philip Mansel, independent scholar, London) and “Thomas Hope’s Furniture: ‘A Delightful and Varied Significance of Shape and Embellishment’” (Frances Collard, Victoria & Albert Museum, London) to “The Tragic Mask of Anastasius/Selim: A New Introduction to Hope’s Novel” (Jerry Nolan, independent scholar, London) and “The Afterlife of Hope” (David Watkin and Frances Collard).
Object of the Month showcases a particular object from an exhibition at the BGC with a commentary written by a curator, professor, student or guest. The visitor is able to look very closely at the object, sometimes even more closely than is possible in the gallery itself, while being guided through its nature and history. This combination of intensive investigation of the object and extensive examination of its context represent guiding principles at work in the gallery and classrooms of the BGC.
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