Key furniture designers and makers represented in the furniture collections at the V&A.
George Brookshaw was apprenticed in his youth to Samuel Troughton, a Birmingham painter and ‘japanner’, George ran away in 1767. Nothing else is known of these formative years. In 1778 he married and, around the same time, established a London workshop. He mainly made painted and stove-japanned furniture for the top ranks of society. In the mid 1790s Brookshaw left the furniture trade for good and become a professional botanical illustrator.
Eileen Gray was born into an aristocratic Irish family. Aged 20, she enrolled at the Slade School of Art in London. Gray moved to Paris in 1902, where she was to spend most of her life. In Paris, she studied to become the first western practitioner of Japanese lacquer. Initially, she was known for her work in the Art Deco style but by the mid 1920s, under the influence of Le Corbusier especially, she became a proponent of Modernism.
David Kirkness trained as a joiner in Orkney. In the 1870s he set up a joinery workshop which made Orkney chairs as a sideline. Twenty years later, the demand from a fashionable clientele meant that Orkney chairs were the workshop's main product. It is reported that Kirkness made over 14,000 chairs during his lifetime.
Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright is widely viewed as the foremost American architect of the 20th century. He designed more than a thousand buildings during his career. An irascible personality meant his life was peppered with personal scandal and financial worry. Furniture was integral to Wright's design philosophy. He believed that architecture, interiors and furnishings must arise from the same conceptual principles - an approach he described as 'Organic Architecture'.
The Dr Susan Weber Gallery tells the story of furniture design and production spanning the past 600 years and displays more than 200 outstanding pieces, including chairs, tables, bureaux, stools, chests, cabinets and wardrobes. Designers such as Thomas Chippendale, Frank Lloyd Wright, Eileen Gray, Charles and Ray Eames, Tom Dixon and Ron Arad sit alongside lesser-known names all selected for their superior techniques.