Additional info: 'Gift from Sir M. Digby Wyatt' on one of the designs; '27" - ' and 'No.78' on another; '362' on another.
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Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt (1820-1877) was the First Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge University (1869). Wyatt studied at the architectural firm of his brother, Thomas Henry Wyatt (1807-1880), beginning in 1836. That year he won a medal from the Institute of British Architects for an essay. He made a continental tour in 1844-46, collecting material for his book, published in 1848, 'Specimens of Geometrical Mosaics of the Middle Ages'. Wyatt's skill at art reporting was first manifest when he was assigned to write on the 1849 French salon by the Society of Arts. Wyatt was accompanied by the writer and promoter Henry Cole (1808-1882) who was intent on launching an industrial art exhibition for England. Wyatt reviewed the 'Seven Lamps of Architecture by John Ruskin' the same year. Although he applauded Ruskin's disgust at "shams" of architecture, the differences between Wyatt and Ruskin were already clear. As an architect, Wyatt was not averse to mixing styles, something common during the Victorian era, and Ruskin despised it. Cole was successful in masterminding the 1851 Great London Exhibition, of which Wyatt was made secretary by the executive committee. Wyatt exhibited both architectural drawings and reported on the Fair, for which he won medals and a special award from Prince Albert. In 1852 together with a number of other art-historical writers, including Anna Jameson, he published 'The History of the Painters of All Nations'. He and the architect Owen Jones (1809-1874) designed the fine arts decorations for the Crystal Palace's second erection, representing the various nationalities, at Sydenham in 1854. He married Mary Nicholl in 1853. In 1855 he was elected surveyor for the East India Company, later receiving a knighthood for this work. That same year he was made honorary secretary for the Royal Institute of British Architects (held until 1859). In 1869, Cambridge University established the Slade professorship of fine arts at roughly the same time Oxford had appointed Ruskin first Slade professor of fine arts. Wyatt was selected to be its first recipient of the Cambridge chair and was awarded an honorary M. A. His inaugural lecture, titled 'Fine Art: Its History, Theory and Practice' was published in 1871. He died in 1877 at his castle, Dimlands, South Wales where he had gone to recuperate from the stress of his practice. He is buried at Usk, Monmouthshire. Wyatt's career was primarily that of an architect. He was responsible for restorations of buildings and memorial monuments and royal and government commissions with his brother, Thomas Henry Wyatt. As an architectural historian, he differed from Ruskin in that he supported the revival architectural work of A. W. Pugin, for whom he took Ruskin to task for criticizing. He also disagreed with Ruskin in the value of the iron-and-glass Crystal Palace, correctly seeing it as the bellwether to modern architecture.
Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements
Paint, pencil and ink on cartridge paper. Condition: poor - ten designs attached to both sides of one sheet of backing paper, some are very torn or have corners cut off, some are attached to a further sheet of backing paper first