NEXT month The Country Seat turn the spotlight for the second time on fin de siècle pioneering lighting designer W.A.S. Benson, when they mount an exhibition, The Talented Mr Benson, at their picturesque medieval tithe barn at Huntercombe off the A4130 near Henley on Thames in Oxfordshire.
The selling show from May 13 to 27 coincides with the launch
of the first book on this hitherto underrated innovator. W.A.S.
Benson Arts & Crafts Luminary and Pioneer of Modern Design,
edited by Dr Ian Hamerton, is published by The Antique Collectors
Club at £45 and will be officially launched at the
This is the first book launch for The Country Seat's Harvey Ferry
and Willie Clegg who, for this show, combine again with the
Scottish specialist dealer in lighting Scott Robertson.
The dealers first collaborated to mount the first ever commercial
show on the subject, The Neglected Mr Benson, five years ago.
Today it is taken for granted that any roomset can be transformed
But from the 1880s to 1920s, lighting was undergoing a series of
radical changes, from candlelight to oil lamps, then gaslight and
eventually the wonder of the electricity age.
At the forefront of design in these new mediums was William Arthur
Smith Benson (1854-1924) who was trained as an architect but, in
the 1880s, turned exclusively to designing and manufacturing all
manner of lighting, from table lamps to hanging chandeliers. He was
championed - and sold - by no less a personage than William Morris,
the guru of Arts and Crafts, and he was also on sale at the
fashionable Parisian gallery L'Art Nouveau.
During his lifetime, his designs appeared in museums in Norway and
Germany as well the V&A, where a Benson electrolier still hangs
in the boardroom.
Inventor as well as designer, Benson registered patents for many
of his ideas, such as standard lamp adjusters, electric switches
and roses for lamps, and even an early type of dimmer.
More than 50 different pieces of lighting equipment will be
available at The Country Seat - with an extraordinary wide price
range of £250 to £20,000 - alongside a sample of Benson's
metalwork, which will include kettles, vacuum flasks, bowls and
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