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IxSPIRED BY THE PAST ?

PATRICK BATY

HREE YEARs before he died, John the inspiration and, over the course of many
Fowler collaborated with the archi- conversations and at a time when he was
tectural historian, John Corn- already a very sick man, explained his
forth, on a book entitled Enghsh Decoration approach to historical decoration. His co-
in the I Sth Centurjt.l With a complete chapter author kept the pro.ject focused, he listened,
devoted to the subject, it was, until I discov- looked for the evidence,s provided an enor-
ered the works of Dr Ian Bristow, the first mous number of his own references, and put
important source of information on the his- pen to paper, bringing out the first edition of
torical use of paint and colour that I had their book in 1974.
found. The references and bibliography This book introduced me to many pri-
alone provided me with many months of mary sources in the field of paint research,
useful foraging. and to those in related fields. The treatment
Their introduction suggested that much of floors, upholstery, lighting, heating, and
ofJohn Fowler's approach to the decoration picture hanging was dealt with in depth, and
of country houses, and consequently that of it soon became a vital source of reference in
a later generation of interior decorators, a world poorly served with such detail.
could be found within the ensuing pages. Indeed, one of its main purposes was to
The second edition of their work appeared serve as a basic guide on the history ofdeco-
in 1986, some nine years after John Fowler ration for the National Trust's Historic
had died. puite unforgivably, I had let my Buildin gs Representatives.a
copy lie unopened for nearly fifteen years, On rereading the chapter concerning
and it was only in preparation for a talk paint and colour one can form a clearer idea
given at an earlier conference that I came to of the individual contribution made by each
reread and review its contents. author. However, it is perhaps this attempt
The aim of this paper is to provide an to blend the theoretical with the practical
overview of their chapter on paint and that now causes a certain unease.
colour, and to see how relevant it is nowa- It should be stressed that much has hap-
days as a secondary source for those work- pened since their joint work first appeared
ing on the restoration ofpainted decoration and, largely because of Ian Bristow's mag-
in historic buildings. Reference has also nificent contribution to the field, our under-
been made to a later work of John standing is now greater.5 What follows
Cornforth's, The Inspiration of the Past,2 must not, therefore, be seen as criticism,
which examines Fowler's contribution to merely as an illustration of how the prac-
the English interior. tices and views expressed by one of the most
I never met John Fowler, but have talked significant interior decorators of the twenti-
briefly with John Cornforth about how their eth century must be regarded as just those,
book was written. If I have understood the and not necessarily as an accurate exposi-
facts correctly, Mr Fowler provided much of tion of earlier procedures.
JOHN FO\MLER: THE INVENTION OF THE COUNTRY-HOUSE STYIE

When the book was first written a number open to the public. Typically it involves the
of the techniques now available to examine use of such devices as an off-black on the
the sequence of paints applied to a surface skirting fascia, the picking out of mouldings,
were in their infancy. In spite of referring to and the application of three tints of off-white
them, the authors seemed slow in recogniz- on panelled doors.
ing their potential, and often feli into the The authors acknowledged that the only
same trap that they warned against, that of reference to the use of three tones of colour
believing that something was old, or even is among the Osterley papers. If they were
original, merely because it looked it. referring to the David Adamson bill for
Increasingly it is understood that it is neces- painting at Osterley in the 177os,12 they
sary to examine both the physical and docu- have overstated the case. Certainly, the ceil-
mentary evidence before coming to any ing of the Drawing Room was picked in
conclusions. Until recent architectural paint with 'superfine green, pink, dark purple and
research was carried out at Newhailes, in sky blue colour', and the doors to Mr
East Lothian, for example, it was thought Child's Dressing Room were green with
that the Dining Room displayed its original white mouldings, but nothing suggesting
scheme of the 174,os.6 This is now known three tones of the same colour has been
not to be the case.7 encountered.
The Balcony Room at Dyrham Park, in They mentioned the Adamson bill earlier
Gloucestershire, and the Boudoir at in the chapter, expressing surprise at the
Attingham Park, in Shropshire, were both extensive use of oil paint, and claiming that
described by Fowler and Cornforth as dis- there was a 'definite attempt to create con-
playing 'untouched' or 'original' paint. trasts between flat and shiny paint'.13
However, some years before the second edi- Evidence provided by similar accounts of the
tion appeared, it was revealed that both dis- periodra suggests that oil paint was the con-
played later overpainting.s ventional treatment for the fine rooms of
Ironically, Fowler's repainting of the such a house. To suggest that there was 'a
Saloon at Clandon Park, which formed the definite attempt' to create such contrasts
basis of a number of their assertions, has might, again, be an over-statement.
now been shown to have been incorrectly Likening decoration to cookery, the
interpreted.e (Inskip p. 5, Knox p. t6, Sitwell authors of English Decorqtion in the t9th
p. z8) The work was carried out following Century told us that;15
the making of paint scrapes, the futility of
Memorable cookery is based on flair and free-
which wiII be discussed later in this paper.
dom ofinterpretation, and so is the best deco-
It was this work at Clandon that provided
ration: slavish adherence to the pattern books
the authors with the precedent for using dif- seldom produced the most successful results.
ferent tones of colour on early-eighteenth-
century plasterwork.lo However, we now It is perhaps this tendency to fall back on
know that the scheme that was 'restored' by the unmeasurables of taste and opinion,
John Fowler was the one applied in r.18?9, rather than precedent, which caused me
not the original 7135 one. most difficulty when first considering
Tellingly they admitted that no eighteenth- Fowler's approach to historical decoration.
century instructions had been discovered for How does one know when one is looking at
painting a room in the way that they good 'cookery', or at a scheme that reflects
described in their section entitled The precedent? Who decides when the 'original
Problems of Painting Architectural magic and balance' of a room has been
Decoration.tr This description best summa- restored, for example, and how is the evi-
rizes the style that we now associate with dence presentedP
still being repro-
John Fowler, a style that is At this stage, perhaps, we should ask our-
duced in both private houses and houses selves about the sort ofdecorative treatment
INSPIRED BY THE PAST?

given to historic buildings. Should that true that knowledge of early practices has
accorded to a house open to the public, or advanced significantly only in recent years.le
owned by a national heritage organization, However, when one rereads the chapter with
differ from that in a house in private owner- the benefit of curent information, the large
ship? To simplify matters, this paper wiII number of misunderstandings leaves one
concern itself solely with the former. with a strong feeling that Fowler's work
It is in the last paragraph oftheir book, in owed less to historical precedent, than to
talking about Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire, that received notions ofthe past.
the authors explained that the aim of the For instance, the authors told us that
restoration of a sparsely furnished house, according to Robert Dossie's The Handmaid
whose sole use was to be shown to visitors, to the Arts eggshell paint was actually
was to give the visitors 'an experience that is derived from eggshells. The reference was
as rich and enjoyable as possible'.16 in fact to a little-used watercolour pig-
Attitudes to the display of such houses have ment,2o not, as might be assumed, to the
changed since the 197Os, and many now mid-sheen frnish used in twentieth-century
appreciate that something can be learned by decoration.
showing a house 'warts and all', while still They continued to display their lack of
aiming for a rich and enjoyable experience. understanding of the technical aspects of
Whenever 'restoration', of the type now rec- historical precedent by pointing out that
ognized by the Burra Charter. l7 was men- Dossie did not mention 'dead white' among
tioned, one sensed that it did not meet with his list of white pigments. But this is hardly
their approval. Words such as 'academic', surprising because 'dead white' was a flat
'frozen', or 'pedantry' \\'ere used, and care white finish - a painting process - not a
urged to avoid the 'slavish renewal of the pigment.
misguided taste of the duy before More importantly, Fowler and Cornforth
yesterday'. 1 8
referred to a description of how to paint a
On the one hand, theirs is a serious book room 'three times in oil' in William
containing a wealth of sources on every Butcher's rare house-painting manual of
aspect of interior decoration, with references 1827.21 They described it as being a very
to numerous letters, journals, bills, images, similar process to the one that they then out-
and early published works. On the other, Iined at length, and which they told the
they appear to have been highly selective in reader was 'based on a combination of per-
the interpretation of these references. sonal experience and historical precedent'.2e
In English Decoration in the l Bth Centurjt, I own a copy of the 1821 work and, hav-
Messrs Fowler and Cornforth provided a ing made a comparison of the two descrip-
very comprehensive list of books concerned tions, can see no reason why they have cited
with house painting, colour, and hne art, the it as a source.
implication being that they studied all these By juxtaposing a synopsis of Fowler and
works prior to writing their chapter on paint Cornforth's recommended approach to
and colour. However, having suggested that painting a room with the traditional method
correlation with these manuals would be of outlined by William Butcher,zs and by pro-
considerable assistance to those trying to viding a brief commentary, my concerns
identify colours from accounts and invento- should become clear:
ries, and that such an exercise would enable
Butcher: For the frrst coat - take the best
colours to be produced for restorations, the
white lead, mix it well with two-thirds of
authors then betrayed a consistent lack of
linseed oil, and one-third of turpentine;
understanding of the technical details in
add driers, then lay it on as a thin and
those selfsame texts.
even coat. Once dry, this coat should be
Many of the instances cited below will no
rubbed down, and any holes filled.
doubt be regarded as petty, and it is certainly
INSPIRED BY THE PAST?

given to historic buildings. Should that true that knowledge of early practices has
accorded to a house open to the public, or advanced significantly only in recent years.le
owned by a national heritage organization, However, when one rereads the chapter with
differ from that in a house in private owner- the benefit of curent information, the large
ship? To simplify matters, this paper wiII number of misunderstandings leaves one
concern itself solely with the former. with a strong feeling that Fowler's work
It is in the last paragraph oftheir book, in owed less to historical precedent, than to
talking about Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire, that received notions ofthe past.
the authors explained that the aim of the For instance, the authors told us that
restoration of a sparsely furnished house, according to Robert Dossie's The Handmaid
whose sole use was to be shown to visitors, to the Arts eggshell paint was actually
was to give the visitors 'an experience that is derived from eggshells. The reference was
as rich and enjoyable as possible'.16 in fact to a little-used watercolour pig-
Attitudes to the display of such houses have ment,2o not, as might be assumed, to the
changed since the 197Os, and many now mid-sheen frnish used in twentieth-century
appreciate that something can be learned by decoration.
showing a house 'warts and all', while still They continued to display their lack of
aiming for a rich and enjoyable experience. understanding of the technical aspects of
Whenever 'restoration', of the type now rec- historical precedent by pointing out that
ognized by the Burra CharteqlT was men- Dossie did not mention 'dead white' among
tioned, one sensed that it did not meet with his list of white pigments. But this is hardly
their approval. Words such as 'academic', surprising because 'dead white' was a flat
'frozen', or 'pedantry' \\'ere used, and care white finish - a painting process - not a
urged to avoid the 'slavish renewal of the pigment.
misguided taste of the duy before More importantly, Fowler and Cornforth
yesterday'. 1 8
referred to a description of how to paint a
On the one hand, theirs is a serious book room 'three times in oil' in William
containing a wealth of sources on every Butcher's rare house-painting manual of
aspect of interior decoration, with references 1827.21 They described it as being a very
to numerous letters, journals, bills, images, similar process to the one that they then out-
and early published works. On the other, Iined at length, and which they told the
they appear to have been highly selective in reader was 'based on a combination of per-
the interpretation of these references. sonal experience and historical precedent'.2e
In English Decoration in the l Bth Centurjt, I own a copy of the 1821 work and, hav-
Messrs Fowler and Cornforth provided a ing made a comparison of the two descrip-
very comprehensive list of books concerned tions, can see no reason why they have cited
with house painting, colour, and hne art, the it as a source.
implication being that they studied all these By juxtaposing a synopsis of Fowler and
works prior to writing their chapter on paint Cornforth's recommended approach to
and colour. However, having suggested that painting a room with the traditional method
correlation with these manuals would be of outlined by William Butcher,zs and by pro-
considerable assistance to those trying to viding a brief commentary, my concerns
identify colours from accounts and invento- should become clear:
ries, and that such an exercise would enable
Butcher: For the frrst coat - take the best
colours to be produced for restorations, the
white lead, mix it well with two-thirds of
authors then betrayed a consistent lack of
linseed oil, and one-third of turpentine;
understanding of the technical details in
add driers, then lay it on as a thin and
those selfsame texts.
even coat. Once dry, this coat should be
Many of the instances cited below will no
rubbed down, and any holes filled.
doubt be regarded as petty, and it is certainly
JOHN FO\^/LER: THE INVENTION OF THE COUNTRY-HOUSE STYLE

Fowler and Cornforth; The surface should could be thinned with pure turpentine,
be primed with a white-lead primer, the and sometimes a very small quantity of
holes and cracks should then be filled. linseed oil could be added. This, we were
The surface is then rubbed down, using told, would allow the paint to 'flow' more
progressively finer grades of glass paper. easily if it seemed 'ropy' (i.e. thick and
A coat of transparent shellac polish is streaky).
then applied.
In the next paragraph, however, Fowler
The composition of the first coat is basi- and Cornforth went on to quote the late
cally similar.2a Nowadays, one winces to see Morgan Philips, who said,26
the modern authors unknowingly suggest Most of us now understand that old paint has
the hazardous practice of the dry rubbing not only colour but a ropy textured appear-
down of a lead*painted surface, thus releas- ance, usually showing pronounced brush
ing a cloud of toxic particles into the air.25 marks.
The light use of a wet pumice stone, or wet
puite why this quote was included is unclear,
and dry paper, might have been mentioned if
especially as we had just been told to add lin-
they were describing the correct method of
seed oil in order to prevent a'ropy' appear-
wet rubbing down. Having used one or two
ance, and to avoid a 'dead mechanical finish'.
different grades of sandpaper, and (presum-
Surely this latter, itself, is a further contra-
ably) removed much of the first coat, they
diction, as a smoother finish would be more
then applied shellac, rather than a second 'dead' and'mechanical' than a'ropy' one?
coaf of nrimer
From a technical point of view, one might
Their next process was slightly more
question the wisdom of mixing turpentine
elaborate than that described in the original
and linseed oil with a ready-formulated
text:
product that contained neither, and which
Butcher: The second coat was to be mixed had been carefully produced in order to flow,
as before, although fewer driers were to and to cover well.
be added. The authors then stated that oil would
tend to give a glossy appearance, and so
Fowler and Cornforth: Two coats of under-
should be used very sparingly. However, the
coat were next applied. We were told that
addition of linseed oil would not only make
as white eggshell (a modern alkyd resin
it glossier, it would also increase the chance
titanium based paint) tended to discolour
of the paint yellowing. This was, presumably,
and darken when used by itself, it was
why they had suggested mixing the white
better to use a mixture of 50 per cent
eggshell with flat undercoat to produce a
w-hite eggshell and 5o per cent flat white
undercoat as the last undercoat before the
whiter base coat. Would it not have been
better to have left the paint alone?
final colour was applied.
It might seem unduly pedantic to criticize
The final process was somewhat different their technique, but it appears to be more
to the original: appropriate for the painting of furniture
rather than architectural surfaces. The cit-
Butcher: The third coat was mixed using
ing of William Butcher's method of rsst is
half oil and half turpentine. A colourless
completely spurious, and their process
drier in the lorm of white copperas (zinc
appears to have no basis in recognizable his-
sulphate) and a small quantity of blue or
torical precedent.
black pigment were added to reduce the
No doubt, such a long-winded process
inherent yellowness of the white.
would add to the cost of the work. Indeed,
Fowler and Cornforth: The finaL coat the authors admitted that their process
should have stainers added and be given a might sound a very long-drawn-out and
flat finish. The alkyd resin eggshell paint costly one, but they claimed that it was the
INSPIRED BY THE PAST?

only way to avoid a dead mechanical finish Furthermore, they said'33
that is 'so unpleasing in a large room in an
To anyone concerned with restoration who
old house'.27 However, the unnecessary com-
encounters these techniques used in historic
plexity of the process, cloaked as it was in
interiors today, the questions that immediately
mock-historical garb, seems to have been
spring to mind are firstly 'are the resuits
highly prized by Fowler's clients. authentic' and 'are the methods authentic'.
To give a greater sense of depth and tex- The answer to both cannot be an unequivocal
ture to the colour, the authors told us that 'yes' for the mediums are not exactly the same
the final coat of paint might be applied in dif- as those used in the past, and consequently
ferent ways, the most usual of which were results have to be achieved in a diflerent way.
brush graining, stippling, glaze painting, Nor indeed have the methods been conceived
and dragging. All of these fashionable fin- for restorations: they have been worked out for
ishes, like the actual method of painting the decoration of private houses before there
was a demand for the kind of 'academic restora-
which had just been described, 'are based on
tions' that is now developing in England.
historical precedents'.28 Once again, an ele-
ment of distortion had crept into their text, However, they assured us that:34
unless of course a more recent origin was
they do correspond to the methods
implied by their use of the word 'historical'.
describedin the books mentioned at the
Certainly, Dossie mentioned'glazing',2s beginning of the chapter.
but in the context of fine art and small
painted objects, not the decoration of walls In writing of John Fowler's contribution
or woodwork, Similarly, when he referred to to the English interior in his book The
colours that are transparent in water, rather Inspiration of the Past, John Cornforth illus-
than oil, he called these 'washing' colours - trated a number of colour samples. These
a term familiar to watercolourists. David were produced by Fowler in 1,947 for
Ramsay Hay, in the sixth edition of hts Lazus Christopher Hussey, who was preparing a
of Harmonious Colouring of 1847, was one of pamphlet on external colour for the
the first authors to mention a stippling Georgian Group.e5 Annotations on the
brush, but this was for laying off a flatting reverse of each suggest that they were made
coat on painted walls, and certainly not a up from combinations of the following pig-
coloured glaze.3o Brush graining, stippling, ments: white, black, yellow ochre, raw
and dragging were actually processes used umber, Venetian red, burnt Sienna, crimson
in the early years of the twentieth century, lake, vermilion, emerald green, chrome yel-
but could this legitimately be considered low, and cobalt blue.
'historical' when Fowler and Cornforth's Keen students of the architectural use of
work was published in 1974, only fifty or so paint and colour in the eighteenth century
years laterPsl will see that only one of the eight combina-
As if to acknowledge some of the doubts tions of colour would have been possible at
that might have been raised by more knowl- that time. A number of the pigments, such as
edgeable readers, Fowler and Cornforth emerald green, cobalt blue, and chrome yel-
admitted that glazing:3 2 low, were not invented until the following
... is a method that is very difficult to analyse century; others, such as crimson lake, were
through scrapes, because the glazes are so too fugitive to use externally; while vermil-
thin that they hardly ever survive and also ion and burnt sienna were expensive, and
because they are effected by the action of the therefore inappropriate, for large-scale use.
oils in the paint. Once again, these choices appear to have
Once again, we were being asked to believe been based on whimsy and taste alone, cer-
that in spite of the lack of physical evidence, tainly not on historical precedent.
their reading of historical sources had pro- Mr Cornforth tells us that John Fowler
vided them with this information. began to use strong colours in the 195os,
JOHN FOWLER: THE INVENTION OF THE COUNTRY-HOUSE STYLE

in particular the Italian pinks and in previous generations, because of the poor
orange-terracotta colours that he liked in grinding of pigment.
halls and staircases,sd the most striking of Incidentally, the authors appear not to
these perhaps being the Wyatt Cloisters in have fully understood the nature of soft dis-
Wilton House, Wiltshire, with an apricot temper, which they described as being made
terracotta stippled over a yellow ground, from 'ball whiting broken down over heat
and the vestibule and staircase of the library u,ith size and water'. The traditional method
at Christ Church, Oxford. of making it involves the soaking of r,vhiting
The liking of pink may have come from (chalk) in cold water followed by the addi-
the American decorator Nancy Lancaster's tion of a warm glue size. This was allowed
use of it in the Entrance HalI of her house, to cool to a jellyJike consistency before
Kelmarsh HaII in Northamptonshire.sT being applied.a6
(Stiha p. 55, Figure 6) We are told in an ear- They described soft distemper giving a
as
lier passage that seven coats of distemper dry fresco-like effect that appeals today but
were used to reproduce the pink which was did not appeal to eighteenth-century taste:47
originally seen in the Hall at Lady Islington's .. . for according to a mid t sth century dic-
house, Rushbrooke Hall, in Suffolk.ss tionary in the Victoria and Albert Museum
Cross-section examinationss of a number 'The greatest disadvantage of distemper is,
of paint samples from the walls at Kelmarsh that it has no glittering, and ali its colours
revealed no evidence of seven coats having look dead.'
been applied.4o This is just as well, as to
In spite of having just told us of the inter-
apply that many coats of an oil-bound dis-
changeable meaning, in the context of paint,
temperal would have been technically of the words 'dead' and 'flat', they seemed to
naive. There is a tendency for this sort of'
have forgotten this other meaning. Could
paint to delaminate, or peel away from the
this reference suggest the unthinkable - that
wall, once a certain number of coats have
a flat finish was not always desirable in the
been applied.a2 One presumes that the
first half of the eighteenth century? What
painter used his common sense and own
could John Smith - another of their sources
initiative when given the specification by have meant when he wroter48
Mr Fowler. -
The pinks may also have come from Take Notice, That all simple Colours used in
House Painting, appear much more beautiful
the chalky grounds of the eighteenth- and
and lustrous, when they appear as if glazed
nineteenth-century Chinese wallpapers that
over with a Varnish ...
Fowler studied when he was training as a
painter of wallpaper in Thornton Smith's Chester Jones, in his book on Colefax &
studio in the 192os. Probably the most Fowler,ae tells us that to this day the com-
important influence was his sight of the vil- pany often apply paint using techniques that
las of the Veneto during a Georgian Group were first'brought back into favour' by John
tour in the mid-195os.43 Fowler, and then developed by him and
His painter's eye and his historical sense, George Oakes to evoke the softness of old
we were told, made him prefer oil-bound tired paintwork.so The same author tells us
water paint to modern emulsion paint,aa which that the paint is put on thinly as glazes over
he'despised'. It was the dry look of water paint either ground colour or white. It is then
that he liked and thought more important than given a coat of flat varnish to protect the
a perfect finish or long life; 'also it gave the vulnerable surface, as well as to leave that
worn effect of old colour if applied in thin 'dry' finish which is 'essential to the look of
glazes'.a5 Although acknowledged as being old paintwork'.51
inauthentic, Mr Cornforth told us that it did As mentioned already, this form of paint-
however reproduce, in modern materials, the ing has more to do with the painting of fur-
textured effects which could not be avoided niture than that of architectural elements.
INSPIRED BY'I-HE PAS'f? 3i

Ilistorical precedent is not rhat this tech- Another exarnple. perlraps belter knori n.
nique is based on, yet it is tliis approach is \Vest Wvcombe Park in Buckingharnshire,
n hich, until the so-called 'acadernic' restora- transformed in the 1?4Os fl'om a Queen
rir rrr: of l'ecer)t Jvears.
.-..'-' sLridr.d our hand in tlrc
b Anne house into a broadly Palladian one.
l,ainting of lristorical interiors. Here, as the late Sir Francis Dashu'ood tells
Such \vas Fos'ler's influence that it us in ]ris history of the house,56 he ernployed
appears that his reported r'vords to Ian John Forvler to help restore the house after
\IcCallunr, 'Norl,, child, a colour can go the \\rar. The u,alls of the Saloon lvere, he
rrrr-rcldy if you do not shorl, the undercoat says, painted a 'startling yellor.rr' and thcn
tlrrough',52 are still heedecl. Er.en nou' there glazed, in a manner similar to that at Nancy
is a belief, in some quarters, that lead paint Lancaster's drau'ing room at the back of her
n as transparent. 'fhis is indeecl odd because, shop in 39 Brook Street, London.57 Mrs
iirr or.er three hundred years, and in spite of' Lancaster ach.ised the Dashrvoods to retain
'tr knori rr torit it;t it u a: u:ed fi)r it\ opa( - tlre nincteentlr-t entrrr) qrainirrg on tlre
'rr'.tr Sirrrilarly ue uele told tlrat distenrper dado. a. .lre consideled rr lrite 'so boling.-'u
Irr e: a subtlr 'irregrrlar effet'l'. arrd so trt lr- In the Music Room, Forvler stripped off
' i{lues lrsemhlinq the pairrt eftet ts \o popu- the nineteenth-century pink u,allpaper and
lril ir-r the early 198os are still being appliccl r,vas h-rcky to llncl tr'aces of- rvhat he belier..ed
,n the l alls of period rooms in museums to be the original red oclrre. After applying
rrncl country liouses open to the public.sa an undercoat ol u,hite, he and Hal Baxby
l'lrere ale manl useful quotcs tn E nglislt \pcl)t thrcc dal s 'rrrirrg thc .porrgirrg tet h-
I)et'oration in the 19th Century, and it is per- nique' that thcy hacl lcarnt as apprentices
:r:rps ironic that the unlbrtunate eII-ects dis- together'.5!l
:lavcd in these rccently ciecorated roorns Once again, no mention is rnade in the
rrright have been al'oided hacl one of tlrenr guiclebook and it would appear that the
' ( cl) nrade Ittore c,f b1 the author:. J[g; colours ancl processes used by Forvler at
lrovided a description of the painting of a houses such as \Vallington and \\'est
r.i)onr taken lrorn a letter of' 1767. This \\combe bore more relation to the twenti-
:'clated to tlie application of three coats ol eth century than to the eighteenth. No doubt
ii:teniper, and tellingly concluded by saying rnar-ry r.isitors u'ill havc associated these
:lrat: 'This method succeeclecl so lr,ell that it schemes lr,ith the furniture and paintings,
. all one colour, and looks extremely nell ancl come arvay u,ith distorted notions of his-
.. .'r'i Miglit this be taken to mean that a torical desipJn. In houses such as this, rvhich
.,,lrd colour ivas dcsirable? are open to the public, conluscd messages
-\ttention has been drau,n to one of the are so often being gir.en. Small rvonder that,
',:Lll)' cccphtfic t|eailrrent: that Fo$ ler ga|e having been softenecl up by such sights, the
' rr historit interitrr in tlre errntple oF tlre public is confused as to r,r,hich genr.rinely con-
::r1oon at \Vallington, in Northumberland. stitute historical paint colours.
: tarrled out l)aint \('rapes, attd conre
i.rr ittg Both Chester Jones and John Cornforth
' rlrc conclusion tlrat original)51 in tlrc tell us of the benefits of' 'scrapes', and lre
: +Os, the s,alls u,ere lilac and the plaster- learn that John Foi.vler rvould use thetl to
', Ll'k u.hite, Johrr Folvler rer.ersed this, discol'er the nature of past colour schenres.
,irnting the rvalls lr,hite ancl the plasterrvorh Indeed, one still reads of color-rrs beinp;
l ac. If such re\rersals t ere considered justi- rnatched to paint scrapes.6o One rvonders if'
: .'tl. one u,onders \\,hy it \vas e\ren fclt neces- such credence u'ould be placed on this sort
-.rll to take scrapes. As a one-off exarllple of process if the practitioners understood
' : lrla)' not ha\e been such a problenl. but the distortions tliat can take place.
, r'v the r isiting publit told u lrat had lrap- The problenr of relying on scrapes can be
( ne(l here, or \\.ere they allou.ed to assllme seen in an area of scraped paint in the llmpress
' ut this \vas an earlier, 'restored', scherne? .Iosephine's Music Room at Malmaison, near
38 .IOH)I !.O\vLER: .fITE INvENTION oF .IIIE C()UN.IRY-IIOUSE STYI-E

Paris, in F rance. A photograph takel'r in 1996 this rnight be clone on a house-by-house
sholr's the results of'thc 1981J redecoration basis. Sonre of tlie better examples rnight be
based on scrapes. During that thirteen-year kept, r.vhile those produced on an 'of}' day'
periocl, the scraped area of thc capital has might be replaced by scherrtes that have
beconre mr-rch less dark as a result of expo- more rele"'ance to the fhcts knou'n about the
slrre to ultrar,iolet light in the fbrrlr of day- house.
light. The green paint that lr'as rnatched to In spite o1' the foregoing, English
tlie (then) freshly exposed scrape now acts Decoration in the lBth Centurlt is a highly sig-
as a permanent remincler of the fblly of ill- niflcant r'r'ork and should be studied, albeit
consiclered scraping. nith the care taken u,hen studying any
Serr,ir-rg as a furthcr exarnple are tlie paint rvork that blends opinion u'ith fact. As the
colours found in a sixty-year-old paint saur- authors themselves said of the study of historic
ple book, on one side as tliey r.vere u'hen the decoration,62
book rvas first opened, and on the other after ... if the airn is to try to develop an ob.jective
lengthy exposure to UV light. One can approach to decoration ar-rcl restoration, it is
irnagine hon' diflbrent a decorative sclierne necessar)' to try to tlnderstand hori' and l'h)'
u'ould be based otr the two sets of'colours! s'e lt>ok at the past in the \\,ay rve do atrcl to be
Torvards the end of the chapter entitled ar'vare of *'hat itrflrtences there have been on
'Colour and the painter's craft' in Iiorvlcr and country houses in thc course of this centurl'.
Cornfbrth's Englilt Decoratiort in the I Bth No one can deny the enormous influer-rce of
Certurl we are toid that: '... it rvould be dan- John Fou'ler, and it is only by ttorv questiolr-
lferous to dir.ide the 1Sth centtlry into tr.vo ing his o\\:n approach that \\re can possibly
distinct periods ...'.61 Surely they rvere not hope fbr greater obiectivity in our treatment
suggesting that a Palladian interior of the of historic buildings.
first quarter of the eighteenth ccntury might
be treated iu the same \vay as an Adarn inte-
rior of tlie last quarter? References
Nou, befbre I arrt accltsed of'an unl\iar-
rantcd assault otl two authors who are not in I I;i>rvler', Joltn ancl Colnfbrth, .Iohn, Iingli.sh
Decora.tiott in the I sth Cluilur!,2ncl cclition, Barric
a position to answer back, I must enrphasize
& Jenliins, Lonclon, 19fi6.
that my purposc in questioning their 9 Corr.rlbrth, John, 7'1rc Inspiration oJ lhe Past:
approach is purcly a concern u'ith the treat- Courttry House 'I'aste in the 'l-wenlietlt Cenhtl,
nrent of historic interiors in br"rildings opert Viking, Lonclon, t985.
to the public. :l Cornfbrth, .hlu, '.lolrn lbnler aucl the National
-ft'trst,
Trust', in Nttti.onal T'rtnt Stttdies, National
A giftecl and ittnovative dccorator Johl-r London, 1979, pp. 39-49.
Forvlcr might har,e been, but to suggest that 4 Corrrfortlr, op. cit. tsla5, p. ezt.
his treatment of historic interiors is u'orth 5 Bristori; Ian C., ArchitechuuL CoLotn' in British
anything more than a lar54e chapter in the Interiors 1 61 5- I 8"Io and Interior Llou';e-Paintittg
history of interior design rvould be asking Colours and Technologl tGtS-|9-!o, both pub-
too much. Due consideration should be Iished by Yale University Press, London, 1996.
6 Cornfbrth, John, 'Nervhailes, l'last Lothian', in
given to the rvorlt carried out by hinr. Let us
Comtrt l-fb, 21 Novenrber 19.96, \'ol. cxc no. +7
ensure, hon-ever, that it is as a sigr-rificant pp. +6-5 1 ancl gB Nolember 1996, r'o1. cxc no.'trS
trr,entieth-century clecorator that he is pp. 72-'i.
renrernberecl, and not as oue u'orking u'ith T Baty, Patrick, Newhailes Honse, tr)ust I'othian: A
historical precedent or scholarly research Re'port on the Decora,ti.ve Sclrcnrcs Following at't
I)t:anLinatiott of" th( Painled Surfhces in l/arious
guicling his hand.
Aretts, prepared fbl thc National Trust fbr"
In sutnmary, thc materials and rncthods Scotlancl, 26 November 1998.
uscd by John Fou'ler t-ere altogether closer 8 Bristorl Ian C., 'Repair-rting Fiightecrrtlt-Centur)'
to those that rve employ today. As far as pre- Interiors', in ASCLIB Transadion.s, rol. 6, 198t,
seru.ing exantples of his rvorit is concerned, pp. 25-33. See also Bristou', Ian Cl., ''l'he Balconl'
40 JOHN I'OWLER: THE INVENTION OF THE COUNTRY-HOUSE STYLE

The other is the recently repainted Long 5e Ibid., p. 216.
Gallery, at Osterley Park, Middlesex. 60 This author was recently asked to carry out
oo Dated to April troz, from Rolvland Belasis to paint research in a country house in Wiltshire.
Lord Fauconberg, u'ho was then remodelling Prior to this, scrapes had suggested that three
Neu'burgh Priory in N. Yorkshire. schemes had been applied in the Library - analy-
56 Sir Francis Dashwood, The Dashr.uoods of 55 sis revealed that it had been decorated, or par-
West W1,combe, Aurum Press, London, 1990. tia11y decorated, on nine occasions since being
57 22 Avery Row was the entrance to Nancy built in the 178os. Similar discrepancies were
Lancaster's private accommodation at the back of found in other rooms.
the Colef'ax & Fowler shop on 39 Brook Street. 61 Dashwood, o?. cit., 1990,p.185.
58 Dashwood, op. cit., r99o p. 2o1-. 62 Fowler and Cornforth, op. cit. 1986, p. 2r.