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Augustus Pugin

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Augustus Pugin

by Unknown artist
oil on canvas, circa 1840
24 1/8 in. x 20 in. (613 mm x 508 mm)
Purchased, 1905
Primary Collection
NPG 1404

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  • Foister, Susan, Cardinal Newman 1801-90, 1990 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 2 March - 20 May 1990), p. 35 Read entry

    Pugin, the great champion of the Gothic revival in England was both architect and designer. He designed furniture and fittings for Wyatville at Windsor Castle, and collaborated with Sir Charles Barry over the design and interior furnishings of the rebuilt Houses of Parliament. His designs for furniture, tiles, stained glass and metalwork were among the most influential of the century, and were carried out in close collaboration with him by manufacturers such as John Hardman who executed Pugin's designs for ecclesiastical metalwork. As an architect Pugin was responsible for the design of numerous churches, including St George's Cathedral, Southwark.

    Pugin converted to Roman Catholicism in 1835, and his major patrons, such as the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury were also Catholics. Pugin was vehement in his insistence that Gothic was the only style of architecture appropriate for the Catholic religion, and that to build churches in any other style was anti-Christian. Pugin's enthusiasm for the trappings of medieval ritual, set out most graphically in his Glossary of Ecclesiastical Ornament appealed strongly to those Anglicans who in the 1830s and 1840s were concerned with the authentic revival of Gothic architecture.

    The whole-hearted revival of medieval ritual was a controversial matter, both in the Anglican and the Roman Catholic churches, and arguments came to a head in the late 1840s over the so-called Rood-Screen controversy in which Pugin and his supporters insisted screens should be reinstated in churches, thus separating the clergy and the laity in a manner which many (including Faber of the London Oratory) found contrary to modern ideas of unified worship. Newman sided with those who deplored the screens as an obstruction, and later departed wholly from his earlier admiration for Pugin over the question of the design for his Catholic Oratory but in 1840 he could write of Pugin 'I can't help liking him, though he is an immense talker'. (James Patrick, 'Newman, Pugin and Gothic', Victorian Studies 24 (2), 1981, p 193)

  • Ormond, Richard, Early Victorian Portraits, 1973, p. 387
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 508

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Events of 1840back to top

Current affairs

Victoria marries her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; he is given the title of Prince Consort.
The Penny Black stamp is introduced by Rowland Hill; the first pre-paid, self-adhesive stamp, it marks the start of the modern postal system.
The start of the Irish potato famine, which by the time of its peak in 1851, had caused the deaths of one million, and contributed to the sharp rise of emigration from Ireland to England and America.

Art and science

Beau Brummel, the fashion leader responsible for sparking the culture of 'Dandyism', dies of syphilis.
The first stone is laid on the new Houses of Parliament, based on the gothic designs by the architects Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin. The old buildings had burned down in 1834, following a blaze caused by burning wooden tallies used by the Exchequer to calculate tax.


The Afghans surrender to Britain during the Afghan-British war (1839-42). The war was sparked by British fear over Russian influence in Afghanistan, with the British East India Company resolving to depose the Afghan leader, Dost Muhammad, who was insistent on Afghan independence, and restore the former leader Shoja Shah.
The Maoris yield sovereignty of New Zealand under the Treaty of Waitangi.

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