Vanbrugh at the V&A

Newly bought architectural albums on show

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Timed to coincide with the opening of the adjacent Frank Lloyd Wright Gallery, the V&A has put together a new permanent display on the topic of “Plans and Elevations: architectural drawings at the V&A”. Compiled from the 35,000 architectural drawings in the museum’s collection, the selection will be changed every six to nine months, both for conservation reasons and to give visitors an idea of the scope of the holdings. Alongside the drawings will be displayed examples of metalwork and silverwork by architect/designers such as Adam and Kent, while the project is intended to be seen as part of a conceptual whole with the recently-opened ornament and twentieth-century galleries, as well as with the Lloyd Wright display. The arrangement of the works is chronological, from a late medieval mason’s drawing on parchment from Ulm (c. 1470) to contemporary architect’s designs including Peter Cook’s “Plug in City” to Nigel Coates’s 1986 design for the Jasper Conran shop, London. Framed designs, sketchbooks and bound volumes include sheets by Sansovino, Bertoia, Gibbs, Kent, Pugin, William Morris and Voysey. Two of the most significant items are a recently-purchased Lutyens sketchbook—one of only four in existence–and a group of drawings by Vanbrugh and Sir Edward Lovett Pearce, known as the Elton Hall volumes. The drawings were purchased by the museum from William Proby, whose family had owned them from an early date, for £310,000 with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the National Art Collections Fund and other benefactors. The sale of the drawings was without doubt the most important of its kind since 1951 when the Marquess of Bute offloaded drawings by architects including Wren, Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor, a number of which entered the V&A collections. The Elton Hall volumes began in Stillorgan House near Dublin, home of one of one of Edward Lovett Pearce’s patrons. Pearce, who was related to Vanbrugh by marriage, acquired a substantial number of his drawings for buildings designed after about 1718. The larger album includes designs for his house at Whitehall, known as Goose-Pie House, Vanbrugh Castle, Greenwich and his country house at Chargate, Esher

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