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The Culture of the Regency: Image, Reality and King George IV - Lecture Series

The Regency period (c.1780-c.1830) was, for the visual arts, a time of exuberance, colour, experimentation – and fun. It was the period of Nash and Soane, of Turner and Constable, of Brighton Pavilion and Regent Street. Its vibrancy and originality took its cue at least partly from the personality of the Prince Regent himself (after 1830, King George IV). Prince George’s eclecticism in art, architecture and the decorative arts were in the van of taste: he helped to make the Regency era the first truly eclectic age, anticipating the Victorians’ love of mix-and-match, was responsible for considerable stylistic and technical innovation, and became the greatest ever royal builder and collector, erecting a stunning set of royal homes – which today still constitute the Crown’s most significant architectural assets – and creating much of the present-day Royal Collection. At the same time, however, George IV was seen by many of his subjects at best as a flawed figure of fun, at worst as a predatory and irresponsible spendthrift. Moreover, the style and taste of the Regency was by no means merely a royal creation: for the first time, middle-class families dictated the disposition and decoration of the home. Liberated by technology, householders were able to acquire what had, barely fifty years before, been regarded as unattainable, aristocratic luxuries – from chintz to chimneypieces to champagne.
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SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Fund at The Chicago Community Foundation for its operating support.
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