Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857-1941) was one of the pivotal figures in the development of the Arts and Crafts movement in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. His was a dynamic age – “Our descendants will envy the dawn through which we are passing,” wrote a contemporary – and his houses appealed to a forward-looking generation of intellectuals, writers and artists. In addition to his work as an architect, he was also well-known for his furniture and textile designs. The Decorative Design of C.F.A. Voysey is the first book to showcase Voysey’s designs, and to place him and his work squarely in the context of his times.
Voysey learned that architecture was an art from the Gothic Revival architect John Pollard Seddon, a friend and patron of the Pre-Raphaelites. Besides architecture, Seddon also taught him decorative design, and Voysey became one of the most successful textile designers of his generation. After Seddon, Voysey worked for Henry Saxon Snell, the leading hospital designer. Fresh air and light were essential for healthy living, dictated the science of the time, and something of this aesthetic became part of Voysey’s distinctive personal style. Voysey’s third mentor was George Devey, the leading designer of large country houses. From Devey, Voysey learned an appreciation of plain rural architecture, and his own buildings possess the modesty and functional simplicity of the village house.
The Drawings Collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects houses two-hundred and eight decorative designs by Voysey, sixty-four of which are reproduced here. Once housed in two chests he had designed in his flat in Piccadilly, where he lived in genteel poverty, they were never intended for posterity. They enable us to feel his presence and know something of his way of working and his extraordinary imagination.