The Green Dining Room: The Experience of an Arts and Crafts Interior
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Commissioned in 1865 for London’s South Kensington Museum (now the V&A), the Green Dining Room was conceived during an exciting period in Victorian Britain, when idealistic artists and architects elevated the status of the decorative arts in fine art circles, promoted the ideal of joy in labour, and sought beauty in the everyday. The Green Dining Room is considered a quintessential example of an early decorative scheme by Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., a collective of artists who helped to inspire Britain’s Arts and Crafts movement through their products and their principles of art manufacture. It is adjoined by two other refreshment areas: one designed by James Gamble (a salaried employee of the museum) and the other by Edward Poynter (a promising young painter with an affinity for the decorative arts). The three rooms manifest varied, even conflicting, opinions on the cultivation of design. They indicate how different design professionals hoped to see their art progress. However, the rooms were not simply artistic statements. They were also functioning dining areas for the use of guests and employees of the museum. By assessing the aims of the South Kensington administration, the ambitions of the designers who contributed to the museum’s fabric, and the impressions of Victorians who witnessed the results, I will illustrate how the Green Dining Room occupies a unique position in the history of nineteenth-century design reform.