Course Spotlight – Integrating Materials and Techniques: Metals, Sculptures & Woods in European Decorative Arts 1600-1850

A Pendulum Clock attributed to André Charles Boulle, circa 1695Boughton House, Northamptonshire, The Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry.

In January 2017, the MA program in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies was glad to welcome scholar and Victoria and Albert curator Tessa Murdoch back to the program to teach her intensive two-week course titled, Integrating Materials and Techniques: Metals, Sculptures & Woods in European Decorative Arts 1600-1850. This course looked at developments in the manufacture of furniture, sculpture, silver and ceramics in Europe 1600-1800 with specific reference to France and Great Britain. It focused on individual craftsmen who pioneered techniques and worked across the limits set by the traditional system of apprenticeship within a specific guild. It also explored the importance of art education through the establishment of academies in the leading European cities and included visits to several museums.

Jean Berain, circa 1711Design for furniture, vases and centrepiece for dining table.

Dr. Tessa Murdoch has been Deputy Keeper in the V&A’s Department of Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics and Glass since 2002 and has worked at the V&A since 1990. She completed her Ph.D thesis on ‘Huguenot artists, designers and craftsmen in Great Britain and Ireland, 1680-1760’ at the University of London in 1982 in which she focused on the Huguenot contributions to Metalwork, Art Education, Sculpture, Architecture, Woodwork, Porcelain and Portraiture – examining how freedom from a rigid guild system enabled craftsmen and designers to experiment by working in different materials to those in which they had been trained and to develop new techniques.

A first-year student, Lily Gildor, says of the class; “I found her class incredibly thought provoking. I especially appreciated our visits to various NYC museums, it is always helpful to see the objects in person. Tessa is such an expert in the field and it was a wonderful opportunity to receive her feedback.” It is Dr. Murdoch’s expertise that enrich her classes and make her an invaluable contributor to the course offerings for HDCS.



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