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About the Lecture

Regarded as one of the first industrial designers, Dr Christopher Dresser was a product of the British Government Schools of Design that were set up in the 1830s. His large and successful workshop designed for all manner of industrial manufacturers from carpets and textiles to wallpapers, furniture, metalwork, glass and ceramics – including some extraordinary designs for Wedgwood. Dresser was the first designer to insist on having his name stamped or impressed on objects designed by him in order to assure consumers that they were purchasing ‘good’ design. Although celebrated in his lifetime, Dresser was almost entirely forgotten after his death in 1904. Since the 1960s, however, his designs have been held in high regard and widely collected.  Although Dresser described himself as an ‘ornamentist’ and most of his work is highly decorative and often brightly coloured, he is perhaps better known for his radical metalwork designs, devoid of superfluous ornament, which many see as precursors to modernism and functionalism.


Matthew’s research interests cover a wide range of European decorative arts from the late medieval to the early twentieth centuries. He has extensive knowledge of metalwork, furniture, ceramics, glass and textiles and sculpture. He is committed to exploring ways of making this material more engaging and accessible to diverse museum visitors.


He has over 30 years’ experience working with and researching European decorative arts. He started his career at the Victoria & Albert Museum as an Assistant Curator in the Metalwork and the Furniture and Woodwork Departments. This was followed by 7 years as Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts at the Royal Collection where he co-curated several major exhibitions at The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace. He was subsequently appointed Curator of Decorative Arts at the Holburne Museum in Bath. There he was responsible for the radical redisplay of the decorative art collections as part of the redevelopment and extension of the Museum. He joined the Department of Western Art in the Ashmolean Museum in March 2014 as Curator of Nineteenth-Century Decorative Arts where he was tasked with building a new collection of Nineteenth-Century decorative arts and redisplaying the Nineteenth-Century Art Galleries. Since January 2017, he has been responsible for the entire Western Art Sculpture and Decorative Arts Collections. He us currently curating a major exhibition on color in Victorian Britain that will open at the Ashmolean in September 2023.

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