Owen Jones - influencer of 19th century art and taste

This month we are celebrating the birthday of Owen Jones (1809 -1874), a major influencer of 19th century art and taste.

In his twenties, he travelled on the ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe, visiting the classical sites and learning about ancient history. However, it was the Alhambra in Granada that really inspired him, and he published his first illustrations of the colourful Islamic patterns.

By the time of the Great Exhibition in 1851, he had become established in artistic circles and got the commission to design the interior of the Crystal Palace. This was when the wider public became aware of his style and colour theories.

Jones' book The Grammar of Ornament (1856), outlined his theories on how to use colour, geometry and abstraction in pattern design. The book covers designs from around the globe and formed the cornerstone of 19th century design principles. It is still in print 150 years later (we’ve got a copy!).

Owen Jones Grammar of Ornament

Image credit: Egyptian decoration, The Grammar of Ornament.  EricGjerde,  licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.