III
THE REGENCY STYLE

FROM 1811 to 1820 George, Prince of Wales, was regent for his insane father. Later times took this period as the most significant of his career, when his ebullient personality was at its most colourful, his extravagances and wantonness deprecated but also admired. Already in 1789 on the first hint of the King's derangement the Regency had become matter of high politics, and in the circles that set the often dubious tone of society, it remained an intriguing possibility until it actually took place. As a stylistic term it refers in fact to the first quarter of the century, naturally enough for no stylistic term can be narrowed to a decade. Even then it is vague in definition, a trend rather than a period, and as such it recalls the elements of fantasy and excess in the career of its name giver

The Prince Regent had some of the qualities of a connoisseur. Both the British Museum and the National Gallery owe something to his gifts, advice, and promptings. The friend of Lawrence and Sheridan, he had a genuine appreciation of quality and a sense of responsibility towards the arts. Jane Austen dedicated Emma to him; he sent £200 to relieve the wants of Beethoven. Like the strict classical revival which is the basis of Regency style, there was some genuine taste beneath the luxurious trappings of his life; but there is no consistency of purpose in his over indulgent career, and it is the florid waywardness, the misjudged contrasts, the exotic hints which the term Regency first brings to mind, the looped drapings of Carlton House, the Indian domes of the Pavilion, belly-rounded bow-windows, sphinx terminals on chairs, Gothic arches on cottages, elaborate bonnets surmounting the décollete' simplicity of high-waisted Grecian dresses.1

____________________
5180.10 F
1
D. Pilcher, The Regency Style ( 1947), is a useful general summary: see also John Steegmann , The Rule of Taste ( 1936); for an appreciation of his artistic contacts see Shane Leslie, George IV ( 1926), 170 ff.

-65-

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English Art, 1800-1870
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Plates ix
  • List of Figures xxi
  • Abbreviations xxiii
  • I- Romanticism 1
  • II- Painters in Water-Colour 29
  • III- The Regency Style 65
  • IV- Turner and Constable 97
  • V- Statuary 128
  • VI- The Age of Wilkie 149
  • VII- The Battle of the Styles 176
  • VIII- State Patronage 203
  • IX- Restoration and Revival 223
  • X- The Great Exhibition 254
  • XII- Memorials, Portraits, And Photography 299
  • Bibliography 321
  • Index 331
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