Inspiring World-Class Art and Design: The Victoria and Albert Museum in London

Larger Than Life: Art that inspires us through the ages
By Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
June 7, 2021 Updated: June 7, 2021

The Victoria and Albert Museum, commonly known as the V&A,  was the first building erected under Prince Albert’s vision to create a new cultural district in London dedicated to promoting art and scientific education and to champion British industry in the international marketplace.

The museum’s purpose was “to educate designers, manufacturers, and the public in art and design,” according to the museum’s website.

Although the museum was founded in 1852, it was not until 1857 that the museum moved to South Kensington, an area in West London that had been chosen to be the cultural district of the city. And only decades later, after various museum names, did the museum become the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The area now includes the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Royal Albert Hall, and Imperial College London, to name a few.

The Architecture

The V&A occupies a series of buildings spread over 12 acres of land and includes 7 miles of gallery space.

The buildings in the John Madejski Garden are inspired by Italian Renaissance architecture and feature brick, mosaic, and terracotta. The first of these buildings was built in 1857, and the last was finished nearly 50 years later.

In 1891, a competition was held to design a museum extension that would unite the appearance of the existing buildings. Architect Ashton Webb’s winning design is a mixture of mostly Renaissance and medieval architecture. Built in red brick and Portland stone, the building is a colossal 239 yards long.

Inscribed on the Romanesque archway, above a statue of Prince Albert, is a quote by artist Sir Joshua Reynolds that reads: “The excellence of every art must consist in the complete accomplishment of its purpose.”

Taking Reynolds’s quote into account, the artists, architects, and craftspeople who created the V&A museum beautifully fulfilled the prince’s vision to promote art and champion British industry. The building completely accomplishes its purpose.

To find out more about the Victoria and Albert Museum, visit VAM.ac.uk

Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The museum building on Cromwell Road was designed by architect Ashton Webb, who later went on to design the façade of Buckingham Palace. (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The Romanesque-style main entrance of the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London. A statue of Prince Albert is in the center of the two doors, and a statue of his wife, Queen Victoria, is above the arch. (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
A statue of Prince Albert welcomes visitors to the main entrance of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. (chrisdorney/Shutterstock)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The John Madejski Garden, at the heart of the museum, was designed in 2015, but the Lecture Theater Block (C) and the gallery buildings on either side were built at different times in the late 19th century. The grand central building was once the museum’s main entrance. (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
A mosaic on the pediment of the Lecture Theater Block shows Queen Victoria in the center awarding laurel leaves to prize winners at “The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations” held in London’s Hyde Park in 1851. The exhibition hall, seen as a silhouette on the mosaic, was a temporary glass structure and an engineering marvel. It was dubbed the “Crystal Palace.” Profits from the exhibition funded a new cultural district in South Kensington, West London. (Pres Panayotov/Shutterstock)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Elaborate Italian Renaissance-style ornamentation adorns the buildings of the John Madejski Garden. (Tupungato/Shutterstock)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
One of the terracotta figures that embellish the museum. (Chrispictures/Shutterstock)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Ornate embellishments on the museum building hark back to the Italian Renaissance. (Chrispictures/Shutterstock)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
A mosaic panel on the Lecture Theater Block wall. (Kiev.Victor/Shutterstock)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Visitors enter the Sackler Courtyard of the museum through the Ashton Webb Screen, an arch and colonnade that once hid the museum’s Victorian boilers. (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Sculptural reliefs on the ceramic staircase were lead-glazed in the Della-Robbia style, inspired by the Italian Renaissance sculptor Luca della Robbia who created a special tin-glaze technique. (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Inside the museum, a ceramic staircase demonstrates a cutting-edge design where painted panels were fired onto hexagonal tiles, making them easier to cover the ceiling’s curves. (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff