From the Author
describes this lavishly illustrated new book.
In the first book ever written on the subject, British Campaign Furniture: Elegance Under Canvas 1740-1914, art historian Nicholas A. Brawer reveals the elegance and functionality of the campaign furniture that accompanied British Empire builders to the farthest corners of the earth. The extraordinary pieces illustrated in this book are distinctive marks of a society dedicated to style and appearances, even in the face of enemy fire.
A British officer of the 18th or 19th century was a gentleman first, a soldier second. He furnished his tent as he might his drawing room in a London townhouse. A proper English lady travelling to the colonies by ship expected all the comforts of home on the high seas as well as in her new residence abroad. Both considered it essential to maintain the urbane lifestyle to which they were accustomed by equipping themselves with portable desks, chairs, sofas, and bedroom and dining room suites designed by such masters as Chippendale and Sheraton.
British Campaign Furniture: Elegance Under Canvas 1740-1914, juxtaposes fine examples of fully assembled furniture with detailed photographs and illustrations of the same pieces knocked down and ready for travel. Shining walnut and brass desks, mahogany chests of drawers, and fully upholstered four poster beds could all be disassembled, packed up, and carried on the backs of mules, camels, and elephants.
Some of the book's outstanding examples include a Regency period mahogany sofa that knocks down into four sections; a bureau that becomes a bed when its drawers are removed; a lady's bidet that folds into a leather case; and a dining table seating twenty that fits inside a box only ten inches deep. Because the furniture could be dismantled so easily, officers' servants were able to break camp and sailors could clear the decks within minutes in case of attack. Another benefit of these cleverly designed pieces was that they often contained secret compartments for booty taken in war.
Brawer's insightful text, accompanied by 140 full color plates and dozens of illustrations never before published, vividly describes the social hierarchy that allowed British officers to live as luxuriously in their tents as they did at home, especially in India during the Raj.
Another valuable feature of Brawer's book is an extensive, illustrated directory of British campaign furniture designers, makers, outfitters, and patentees, which provides an indispensable research tool. This splendid book will appeal to those interested in innovative design, the history of furniture-making, British military history, or the social environment in which these pieces were created. In British Campaign Furniture: Elegance Under Canvas 1740-1914, Nicholas Brawer combines thorough research with magnificent photographs and illustrations to present the first complete look at a unique area of British craftsmanship.
About the Author
Nicholas A. Brawer earned his Master's degree in art history from the Courtauld Institute in London. Currently an independent curator, he has held research positions at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the British and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol. He has written on decorative arts and architecture for Antiques magazine. This is his first book. Jerome Phillips is an antique dealer, and an authority on British military furniture. He lives in Oxfordshire.