William Kent Designing Georgian Britain Susan Weber

Publication date:
15 Sep 2013
Yale University Press
704 pages: 305 x 241mm
624 color illus.


The most versatile British designer of the 18th century, William Kent (1685–1748) created a style for a new nation and monarchy. The scope of his achievements encompasses architecture, palatial interiors, elaborate gardens, and exquisite furniture. Among his creative innovations are bold combinations of elements from Palladian, rococo, and gothic design, anticipating the intermingling of architectural styles we see today.  William Kent:Designing Georgian Britain is the first comprehensive exploration of this important designer and his extraordinary creations.

An international team of the foremost experts in the field examines the entire spectrum of Kent’s oeuvre, including the interiors at Kensington Palace and Houghton Hall. Essays illuminate issues about the authorship of Kent’s furniture and metalwork, situate his contributions in relation to architectural discourse, and classify the characteristics of his designs. Copiously illustrated, including many stunning new photographs, this handsome volume celebrates the work and career of one of the most influential figures in the history of architecture and design.


Susan Weber is founder and director of the Bard Graduate Center.

“Published to coincide with a major exhibition at the Bard Graduate Center in New York, this grand volume provides a comprehensive survey of William Kent’s work in fields as diverse as landscape architecture and book illustration. Sumptuously illustrated and consisting of essays by top international experts, this is the most thorough investigation to date of the designer who truly shaped the taste of 18th-century Britain.”—Apollo Magazine

“William Kent was one of the most extraordinary English artists of the first half of the 18th century . . . The exhibition’s catalogue . . . will become a standard reference book for Kent as the foremost experts in the field – Julius Bryant, Geoffrey Beard, John Harris, John Dixon Hunt, Frank Salmon and David Watkin – have written the 21 essays.”—Donald Lee, The Art Newspaper

“William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain is a majestic addition to the literature on British design and is set to become the standard work on a great British innovator and creative genius.”—Martin Levy, Apollo Magazine

“What’s impressive about William Kent, a great slab of multi-author scholarship, is that the architect appears equally adept designing a simple Baroque garden bench at Rousham as the coffered complexity of Holkham’s Marble Hall.”—Damien Thompson, World of Interiors Magazine

“At just short of 700 pages and with superb contributions from no fewer than 15 leading authorities, this is a mighty achievement devoted to a major figure. . .It will remain the definitive account of its subject for many a moon.”—David Ekserdjian, The Spectator

“A massive . . . but very readable catalog.”—Karen Rosenberg, New York Times

“[A] quite stupendous book. . .The book is an astonishment of scholarship (and photography) and hoists Kent shoulder to shoulder with Robert Adam as one of the two great designers of the 18th century. . .William Kent is also a final gathering of a generation of distinguished scholars: it has the glee of a last heist by the silver foxes of architectural history.”—Christopher Woodward, Literary Review

‘Best to visit this illuminating show or read the handsome book, and then go and see the gardens, buildings and interiors in the flesh. Then Kent – the Renaissance man, Palladian man and baroque man – comes to life.’—Harry Mount, The Sunday Telegraph

‘[It] is comprehensive beyond anything previously attempted, incorporates much new research. . .and will serve as a basis for all future studies.’—Simon Swynfen-Jervis, Burlington Magazine

Winner of the 2015 Alfred H. Barr Jr., Award given by the College Art Association.

Winner of the Historians of British Art Book Prize for books published in 2013 in the Multi-Author category.

Won honorable mention for the 2015 Philip Johnson Catalogue Award given by the Society of Architectural Historians.

Shortlisted for the 2014 William MN Berger Prize for British Art History