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Bruce Talbert

Scottish designer, b Dundee, 1838; d London, 28 Jan 1881.

Although trained initially as a carver and later as an architect Bruce James Talbert became best known as a decorator and furniture designer. He ran a prolific design studio employing numerous pupils and buying in work from freelance designers. His textile designs were produced by Warner's, Templeton's, Cowlishaw, Nichol & Co. and Barbour & Miller and carpets by Templeton's and Brinton & Co. His two publications, Gothic Forms 1867 and the posthumously published Fashionable Furniture, 1881, ably reflect changing fashions of the late 19th century.

He served an apprenticeship as a wood-carver in Dundee and ran his own carving business for two years before joining the office of Charles Edward, a local architect. Around 1856 he moved to Glasgow, working first in the practice of the architect W. N. Tait and then with Campbell Douglas (1828-1910). In 1862 he moved to Manchester, where he worked for the cabinetmakers Doveston, Bird & Hull, and by the end of the following year he was in Coventry, working for the wood- and metalworkers Skidmore's Art Manufactures. In the mid-1860s Talbert moved to London, where he designed award-winning furniture for Holland & Sons' stand at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1867. By 1868 he was designing furniture for Gillows of Lancaster, notably the 'Pet' sideboard (1873; London, V&A). He returned to Dundee to set up a design practice, and in 1868 (though dated 1867) he published his first and most influential book, Gothic Forms Applied to Furniture, Metal Work and Decoration for Domestic Purposes. This work championed the structural honesty of the Reformed Gothic style, with its decorative vocabulary of carved chevrons, inlaid or pierced quatrefoil motifs and chamfered edges. Talbert returned to London around 1869 and worked thereafter as a freelance commercial designer, assisted by a small number of pupils including Henry W. Batley ( fl 1872-1908). Although he is best known as a furniture designer, Talbert also designed metalwork for Cox & Sons, cast iron for the Colebrookdale Co., textiles for Warners, Barbone & Miller and Cowlishaw, Nichol & Co., and wallpapers for Jeffrey & Co.

Rond 1850 kwamen de handelsbetrekkingen met Japan op gang waarmee de interesse groeide van diegene die op zoek waren naar noviteiten, zoals E.W. Godwin en Bruce Talbert. Hun interesse ging vooral uit naar de traditie van het Japanse vakmanschap en de hier gebruikte decoratie motieven.

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