Ornament by Design - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Ornament by Design

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Ornament by Design

The Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery 23 April – 12 June 2016


Ornament by Design examines the interplay between ornament and architecture in drawing.   It traces the manifold ways in which the subtle, seductive lines of ornament can transform the surface of buildings and things into objects of desire.  The display presents a range of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French drawings: architectural elevations and sections, designs for ceilings and garden ornaments, capriccios and studies for specific motifs such ornamental brackets and frames.

In the on-line catalogue below you will find additional information and extended discussion of the works exhibited.  Also included, is a brief anthology of eighteenth-century perspectives on ornament and a corresponding selection of voices provided in podcasts by scholars, curators and conservators today.  The section terms will introduce you to the vocabulary of ornament and sources will direct you to historical and critical writing on ornament and design to develop your interest.  In games you will discover resources to make your own architectural and ornament drawings.

Ornament by Design is included in your admission ticket for the gallery.  If you wish to see this exhibition, please select a date between 23 April and 13 June when booking tickets.

Here you can listen to our audio series to learn more about the works on display…

Listen to scholar, Carl Magnusson talk about Books and Theory, essentially exploring the historical discourses surrounding ornament and its relation to architecture, as well as the process of artistic invention…


Listen to co-curator Camila Pietrabissa talk about Museology, where she describes the organisation of, and museological choices behind, the exhibition…


Listen to Artist and architect, Miraj Ahmed’s discussion of Ceiling Studies, where she speaks about the function of ornament in architecture and the different suggestions that a drawing can make…


Listen to Artist and scholar Deanna Petherbridge speak about Masks and Swags, namely the role of the human form, the serpentine curve and the danger of an unadorned corner…


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