Charles Voysey, British Architect and Designer

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Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857–1941) brought beauty and comfort into modern homes. Voysey was a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and achieved a worldwide reputation. His work was one-of-a-kind, simple, and memorable. He was not only a great architect who built beautiful homes but also a designer of furniture, home accessories, ironmongery, wallpaper, fabrics, and graphic design. His buildings were unique, simple, and elegant. Most of them were large houses for individual clients, and they were based on unspecified vernacular traditions.

At the turn of the century, he was one of Britain’s most influential designers, and later, he was seen as a forerunner of modernism. His work has bridged the gap between the Arts and Crafts and modernist movements. (Repose, Cheerfulness, Simplicity, Warmth, 1998)

Sideboard from Hurtmore, SurreyCharles Francis Annesley Voysey (England, London, 1857-1941)
Sideboard from Hurtmore, Surrey Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (England, London, 1857-1941)

Early Life

He was born on May 28, 1857, at Kingston College Hessle, near Hull, and was educated at Dulwich College, where he was a poor student.

Education and Training

In 1874, he worked as an apprentice for the architect J.P. Seddon. After that, he helped Henry Saxon Snell and then George Devey, a well-known country house architect who also believed in the theistic church. As Devey’s workload dropped, Voysey opened his own office in 1881 and started working on designs for homes. (Voysey Society : Biographical Introduction, n.d.) A.H. Mackmurdo told him he could make more money by designing wallpaper and fabrics, which he did very well at.

Biography

He joined the practice of architect Saxon Snell, who specialised in creating hospitals and charitable institutions in 1878 or 1879.

Between 1880 – 1882, he worked in the London office of architect George Devey. Devey designed country houses for wealthy clients, including Lord Lytton, the Marquis of Lorne, Lord Granville, the Rothschilds, the Duke of Westminster, and Mrs Henrietta Montefiore.

Voysey opened his business at Queen Anne’s Gate in London in 1882. His strong, original style was filled with traditional vernacular details that he rethought in his own way. Voysey started making furniture, wallpaper, and textiles in 1888. The Arts and Crafts movement had a big impact on his work. His art nouveau-inspired metal vessels were evident. His work with A.H. Mackmurdo showed up in his textiles and wallpapers.

Wallpaper Design Design by C. F. A. Voysey
Design by C. F. A. Voysey

A skilful self-publicist, his work was exposed internationally through The Studio journal, in which he was frequently featured: his interview published in its September 1893 issue may have been the earliest of its kind with a designer.

In the 1890s, he designed wallpaper produced by Essex & Co. and its magazine advertisements. Some of his patterns may have inspired the images of Walter Crane.

Architecture

Voysey designed numerous small and medium-sized houses in England, including the 1891 Forster House, Bedford Park, London, and the 1899 Julian Sturgis House. Surrey: 1899 H.G. Wells’s Spade House, Sandgate, Kent; 1905–06 Burke House, Hollymount; and Broadleys, Lake District.

Furniture

Most of Voysey’s furniture was in oak and often unstained and unpolished, making features of joints and pegs. He is linked to the Modern movement through his concern for function and the reduction of ornamental details. Unwilling to alter his Arts and Crafts allegiance, he did little work after World War I. His textiles were used extensively by Gustav Stickley in the USA.

Armchair by Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857-1941)
Armchair by Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857-1941)

Influences

Voysey defined comfort as “repose, cheerfulness, simplicity, warmth, quietness in a storm, the economy of upkeep, harmony with surroundings” and sought to make a house a frame for its inmates so “rich and poor alike will appreciate its qualities.” (Repose, Cheerfulness, Simplicity, Warmth, 1998) Voysey was also influenced by Japanese art. Like many of his contemporaries, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, he believed furniture and furnishings should be specific to each architectural commission. Some of his designs were intended for mass production and were among the most commercially successful of their time.

Exhibitions

His architecture was represented in 1894 and 1897 events of the Salon de la Libre Esthétique, at Liège in 1895 with the Glas- gow School, and at 1902 Turin ‘Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte Decorativa Moderna.’ Work subject of 1978 C.F.A. Voysey: Archi- tect and Designer. 1857-1941′ exhibition, Brighton, and 1970 Charles F.A. Voysey’ exhibition, Santa Barbara, California; included in the 1959 ‘Art Nouveau: Art and Design at the Turn of the Century, New York Museum of Modern Art, and 1981 Architect-Designers, Pugin to Mackintosh’ exhibition, London. In 1936, elected Royal Designer for Industry. Received 1940 gold medal, Royal Institute of British Architects.

Sources

Brought Beauty to the Home Mr. C.F.A Voysey Dead. (1941, February 13). Newspapers.com. Retrieved April 2, 2023, from https://www.newspapers.com/image/798896923/

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing. https://amzn.to/3ElmSlL

Repose, Cheerfulness, Simplicity, Warmth. (1998, May 29). Newspapers.com. Retrieved April 2, 2023, from https://www.newspapers.com/image/903982753/?terms=%22C.F.A%20Voysey%22&match=1

Voysey Society : Biographical Introduction. (n.d.). Voysey Society : biographical introduction. Retrieved April 2, 2023, from https://www.voyseysociety.org/voysey/biography/introduction.html

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