Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Life of Philip Webb

Philip Webb in 1873
Philip Webb (1831-1915) was born in Oxford to a family of eleven children.

When Philip Webb was eleven years old his father, a physician, passed away. Consequently Webb had little choice but to abandon his aspirations to become a fine artist and pursue a career as an architect . In 1854, Webb was hired as chief assistant at a firm in Oxford, this was also the place where he met his life-long friend and client of the Red House, William Morris.

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Red Barns House
        Philip Webb met William Morris in 1856; the two would be life-long collaborators from that point on.  They started to work together on design projects due to their common "anti-industrial" mind-set that was greatly influenced by the writings of John Ruskin.  Along with architecture Webb became well known for his handiwork in stained glass, hand-painted glass, tile, carvings, furniture, wallpaper, carpets and tapestry. Webb started his own architectural practice in 1858 when Morris and himself started design for The Red House.  Webb became later known for his unconventional country houses that were unpretentious and informal.  He is also well known for designing the Red Barns House in 1868 and the Rounton Grange in 1870.  In 1877 Webb and Morris founded the "Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings."

Ophelia by John Everett Milliais
         The architect's most apparent influences apart from Gothic Architecture and The Gothic Revival are the works of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was a secret society that helped to revitalize painting in Britain.  They took inspiration from early renaissance paintings, particularly from a group of painters called the "Primitives" who predated Raphael. The writings of John Ruskin, the most prominent art critic of the Victorian era, also guided their philosophy. The group insisted that paintings must be done by direct observation of nature.  The Painting Ophelia was painted by John Everett Milliais, a member of the Brotherhood.  Millias spent four months outside painting the background alone. This purist approach and love of work and craft in balance with art and design is what lead to the ideals behind The Red House and the beginning of the Arts and Crafts movement.

In 1858, Webb took on his first design commission to envision a family home for his good friend, William Morris, who was about to get married. The Red House was to be the first residential building of Modern Gothic, and its layout concept, such as the idea of having individual passageways leading up to the rooms, was later developed into the core characteristic in typical architecture of the Arts and Crafts movement.

In 1877, Webb became actively involved in the preservation work of old churches, thus becoming a key figure in the history of building conservation. The architect had gradually stopped working by the year of 1899 and enjoyed a peaceful retirement in Crawley, Sussex. Today, many examples of Webb's furniture design is owned and preserved by the National Trust.

Morris' friend and co-worker at his firm, Dante Gabriel Rossetti was a part of


"Webb, Philip Speakman." Oxford DNB Article. Accessed December 11, 2012. http://www.oxforddnb.com/

"Philip Speakman Webb by Charles Fairfax Murray." Pre Raphaelite Art (blog). Accessed December 11,
           2012. http://preraphaelitepaintings.blogspot.ca/2009/09/

"Red Barns House, Kirkleatham Road, Redcar, Redcar and Cleveland." Heritage Explorer. Accessed
          December 11, 2012. http://www.heritage-explorer.co.uk/web/he/

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