From the middle of the nineteenth century on there were two institutions which determined the course of stylistic developments and strengthened the tendency towards internationalization of styles -- the world exhibitions and the museums of industrial arts.

The Great Exhibition of 1851, put on in London's Hyde Park in the Crystal Palace, which was built specially for it, was the first international exhibition. There were precursors in the national industrial exhibitions held in France, first in 1798, then 1801, 1802, 1806, and then anually from 1819, and comparable schemes had been undertaken in England from 1847. Their initiators, the Prince Regent Albert and Henry Cole, were the driving force behind the organization of the Great Exhibition. Although the idea and the preparations for this show were regarded with skepticism by many critics, it turned out to be not only an enormous triumph of the imagination but also a material success.

Through the initiative of Prince Albert a part of the profit was used to found a collection called the "Museum of Ornamental Art," which grew into the Victoria and Albert Museum. This institution was opened in 1852. The original collection included many objects which were purchased at the Great Exhibition. . . . The tendency of all these efforts was to provide, in a very pragmatic way, designers for developing industry. In this way the separation of design and execution, of inventor and producer, became complete — a tendency which finally, despite all the efforts of Morris and others, led step by step to the situation of the present time.

The founding of the The Victorian and Albert Museum was soon followed by the foundation of similar institutions in Vienna, Munich, Berlin, Hamburg, and other cities. In every case they were not intended just as museum collections, but rather as exhibitions of models and examples for the use of designers and manufacturers.


Late Ninteenth Century Art: The Art, Architecture, and Applied Art of the "Pompous Age". Ed. Hans Jürgen Hansen. Trans. Marcus Bullock. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970. Pp. 187, 189.

Last modified 14 October 2013