Hardback176 PagesSize: 270 × 228 mm
208 colour illustrations
ISBN: 9781848222335Publication: July 03, 2017
Series: V&A 19th-Century Series

Designing the V&A

The Museum as a Work of Art (1857-1909)

Julius Bryant



  • The first book to consider the V&A as a work of art in itself
  • Presents previously unpublished historical visual material relating to the Museum's 19th-century interiors
  • The opening of the V&A's new Exhibition Road entrance in 2017 revealed previously unseen aspects of the original 19th-century building


The building of the Victoria and Albert Museum, begun in 1857, is the most elaborately designed and decorated museum in Britain. This book is the first to consider the V&A as a work of art in itself, presenting drawings, watercolours and historic photographs relating to the museum’s 19th-century exteriors and interiors. Much of this visual material is previously unpublished and is outside the canon of Victorian art and design.

The V&A’s first Director, Henry Cole, conceived the museum’s building as a showcase for leading Victorian artists to design and decorate. This book reveals for the first time the ways in which Cole’s expressed policy to ‘assemble a splendid collection of objects representing the application of Fine Arts to manufacture’ was applied to the fabric of the building, as he engaged leading painters such as Frederic Leighton, G.F. Watts and Edward Burne-Jones, as well as specialists in decoration such as Owen Jones and Morris and Company, to decorate and design for a building raised by engineers using innovatory materials and techniques.

This book represents a fascinating, untold chapter in the history of British 19th-century art, design, architecture and museums, and provides an essential key to understanding the evolution of the museum’s early collections and identity.

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