The Natural History Museum in London is one of Britain's finest examples of late Victorian architecture at its exuberant height. A decorative tour de force, it was conceived by Alfred Waterhouse, whose attention to detail in the creation of this masterpiece is legendary. The terracotta mouldings of flora and fauna adorning both interior and exterior of the building rival in richness and variety the equally renowned contents of the Museum's collections.
This book presents a history of the development of Waterhouse's designs for these mouldings, setting them in the context of his work as a whole and of their manufacture. It acknowledges his courage in selecting the generally frowned upon medium of terracotta for the execution of the ornament, rather than the established and respected material of carved stone. It also provides a unique document of his exquisite pencil drawings for the individual blocks: although many of the drawings were destroyed when their practical use had expired, over 130 still survive, and are held in the Museum's Library. Seldom seen and never reproduced in their entirety, they bear witness to the fact that Waterhouse was not only a skilled architect but also an extremely accomplished draughtsman. This is a unique portrait of an ornamental scheme which influenced a generation at the end of the nineteenth century.
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