Geffrye Museum, London

9 04 2005

In another country, in another culture, no doubt brings out in me a curious interest but imagine adding to this the ambience of an another age. Such is often the case in England when one visits museums, galleries, country manor houses, palaces, parks and gardens, all bearing the successful experiments of the past, the novelty of the present and the transformations that came in between. One has to be an isolated genius to create something unique and novel in every aspect. In most cases all human creation builds on what has come before it, has a precedent that stimulates and challenges human imagination. It is also an implicit acknowledgement of the past, be it to glorify or to condemn. There is this ever-present shift between different styles and modes of expression. It gives all activity a dynamism that becomes indispensable for all existence. If one century leaned on classicism, another strove to imitate or better it. Yet another attempted to reduce and simplify it to bare essentials. If one age was colourful, another was subdued. If one was formal, another was informal. If one was god-fearing, another was nature-loving. If one copied the glories of nature, another pursued fancy and imagination in creating more stylized patterns and forms. All have their place and none can be excluded from this world. Ultimately all artistic creation is personal. It is right if you feel it to be so.

What better way to sense some of this than to visit the Geffrye Museum in London! It is one of a kind – not too big but enough to keep one occupied for an afternoon. Its period rooms from 1600 to the present are beautiful, lucidly presented and on the whole enjoyable. The visit starts at an Elizabethan parlour room through present day living room, and passing along the scale of time a Georgian sitting room, a Victorian morning room, Edwardian drawing room among others. Robert Adam’s neo-classical simplicity in the Late Georgian Room is of interest in its elegance and formality. The Regency is seen in its early 19th century elegance and informality. The aesthetic movement of the late 19th century is represented. The minimalism of early 20th century appeals greatly to the modern eye.

Oak wall panelling that darken with age has given way to painted panels, wallpapers and light colours. Fireplaces that were once the central focus of the room have yielded to the television. Innovations have made their entries – the mirror, the clock, painted cotton, delftware, “Jappaned” ware, gas lighting, electric lighting, heat radiators… There is no end to human imagination, effort and want.

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