Polychromatic Decoration

W. & G. Audsley, Polychromatic Decoration as Applied to Buildings in the Mediaeval Styles (London: H. Sotheran & Co., 1882). GA Oversize NK2180.A8F

The Audsley brothers, William James (born 1833) and George Ashdown (1838-1925), were Scottish architects who practiced in Liverpool from 1856 to 1880, in London during the 1880s, and in New York City beginning in 1892.

Throughout their career, the brothers wrote, lectured, and published their designs and their beliefs, including the beautiful color-plate book Polychromatic Decoration. Intended as a pattern book and practical guide to the painted decoration of medieval-style buildings, the volume was an instant success. The brillient chromolithographs were printed by Firmin-Didot, who also published a French edition. Although the two editions were meant to be released simultaneously, La peinture murale décorative, dans le style du moyen age (Marquand Library (SA) Oversize NK2140 .A7f) actually came out weeks earlier, at the end of 1881 and so, has an earlier date. Each contains 36 chromolithographed plates, offering 166 designs.

In 1895, George Audsley presented a talk at the Architectural League of New York on “The Polychromatic Decoration of Churches,” which was reprinted in Architecture and Building. This may have led directly to the commission to design the painted ornamentation for Our Lady of Grace Roman Catholic Church of Hoboken, New Jersey. For Princetonians who want to see the Audsleys’ work in situ, this remains the closest example.

To see more digital images, go to: http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/