William Kent


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Designing Georgian Britain

Edited by Susan Weber


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The most versatile British designer of the 18th century, William Kent (1685–1748) created a style for a new nation and monarchy. The scope of his achievements encompasses architecture, palatial interiors, elaborate gardens, and exquisite furniture. Among his creative innovations are bold combinations of elements from Palladian, rococo, and gothic design, anticipating the intermingling of architectural styles we see today.  William Kent:Designing Georgian Britain is the first comprehensive exploration of this important designer and his extraordinary creations.

An international team of the foremost experts in the field examines the entire spectrum of Kent’s oeuvre, including the interiors at Kensington Palace and Houghton Hall. Essays illuminate issues about the authorship of Kent’s furniture and metalwork, situate his contributions in relation to architectural discourse, and classify the characteristics of his designs. Copiously illustrated, including many stunning new photographs, this handsome volume celebrates the work and career of one of the most influential figures in the history of architecture and design.


Published for the Bard Graduate Center, New York

Exhibition Schedule:

Bard Graduate Center, New York

Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Susan Weber is founder and director of the Bard Graduate Center.


Bard Graduate Center, New York

Victoria and Albert Museum, London


“Published to coincide with a major exhibition at the Bard Graduate Center in New York, this grand volume provides a comprehensive survey of William Kent’s work in fields as diverse as landscape architecture and book illustration. Sumptuously illustrated and consisting of essays by top international experts, this is the most thorough investigation to date of the designer who truly shaped the taste of 18th-century Britain.”—Apollo Magazine

“This is a volume that answers in physical terms the stature of its subject: nearly 700 pages long in large format and with illustrations seemingly beyond count, it is, in every sense, a staggering production . . . it undoubtedly creates a new standard account of Kent’s life and work that is unlikely to be superseded for many years . . .For anyone interested in Kent, the book is surely an essential possession that will delight and engage.”—John Goodall, Country Life

“William Kent was one of the most extraordinary English artists of the first half of the 18th century . . . The exhibition’s catalogue . . . will become a standard reference book for Kent as the foremost experts in the field – Julius Bryant, Geoffrey Beard, John Harris, John Dixon Hunt, Frank Salmon and David Watkin – have written the 21 essays.”—Donald Lee, The Art Newspaper

“William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain is a majestic addition to the literature on British design and is set to become the standard work on a great British innovator and creative genius.”—Martin Levy, Apollo Magazine

“What’s impressive about William Kent, a great slab of multi-author scholarship, is that the architect appears equally adept designing a simple Baroque garden bench at Rousham as the coffered complexity of Holkham’s Marble Hall.”—Damien Thompson, World of Interiors Magazine

“The book is magnificent, a great doorstopper with superb illustrations and a rich range of scholarship on every aspect of Kent's multifaceted career.”—Michael Savage, Grumpy Art Historian

“At just short of 700 pages and with superb contributions from no fewer than 15 leading authorities, this is a mighty achievement devoted to a major figure. . .It will remain the definitive account of its subject for many a moon.”—David Ekserdjian, The Spectator

“This book requires only an announcement, not a review, so eminent are its 15 contributors, their scholarship impeccable, its production so magnificent, its subject so various in his abilities. . .This. . .must surely be the art book of the year.”—Brian Sewell, The Evening Standard

“A massive . . . but very readable catalog.”—Karen Rosenberg, New York Times
“[A] quite stupendous book. . .The book is an astonishment of scholarship (and photography) and hoists Kent shoulder to shoulder with Robert Adam as one of the two great designers of the 18th century. . .William Kent is also a final gathering of a generation of distinguished scholars: it has the glee of a last heist by the silver foxes of architectural history.”—Christopher Woodward, Literary Review
“This magisterial volume offers a deeply thoughtful celebration of acclaimed masterpieces as well as a series of specialised studies of less familiar design works and activities. . .no-one would have envisaged such a monumental tribute as this scholarly, highly readable and magnificently illustrated tome. It greatly enlarges out understanding of a seminal figure in design and presents a daunting challenge to new generations of scholars. They may well be discouraged from Kent studies after such an exhaustive examination of the storehouse of his mind and every facet of his personality.”—John Wilton-Ely, The Georgian

‘Best to visit this illuminating show or read the handsome book, and then go and see the gardens, buildings and interiors in the flesh. Then Kent – the Renaissance man, Palladian man and baroque man – comes to life.’—Harry Mount, The Sunday Telegraph

‘[It] is comprehensive beyond anything previously attempted, incorporates much new research. . .and will serve as a basis for all future studies.’—Simon Swynfen-Jervis, Burlington Magazine

Winner of the 2015 Alfred H. Barr Jr., Award given by the College Art Association.

Winner of the Historians of British Art Book Prize for books published in 2013 in the Multi-Author category.

Won honorable mention for the 2015 Philip Johnson Catalogue Award given by the Society of Architectural Historians.

Shortlisted for the 2014 William MN Berger Prize for British Art History
ISBN: 9780300196184
Publication Date: October 15, 2013
Publishing Partner: Published for the Bard Graduate Center, New York
704 pages, 9 1/2 x 12
624 color illus.
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