Celebrated as the “poet of architects and architect of all the arts,” Edward William Godwin was a man of many accomplishments. In a career that spanned more than thirty-five years, he was an architect of civic, domestic, and ecclesiastic buildings; an innovative interior decorator and designer of furniture, textiles, and theater sets; and an articulate critic of art and architecture. Godwin first designed his ebonized sideboard, of which this is a variant model, for his own dining room in 1867, and he subsequently reconsidered the form over the next two decades. In its appearance, the sideboard represents a turning away from the weight of contemporary Gothic Revival aesthetics and a move toward a reductionist sensibility expressed through the balance of solids and voids. This spare style gained Godwin some notable contemporary clients, among them James McNeill Whistler and Oscar Wilde. In his 1904 study “The English House,” the perceptive critic Hermann Muthesius wrote that Godwin’s furniture, including this sideboard, foreshadowed the more modern look that emerged at the turn of the twentieth century. While calling Godwin’s creations “wildly picturesque,” Muthesius concluded that the overall effect was “one of elegance.”


  • Title: Sideboard
  • Creator: Designed by Edward William Godwin in 1867 (English, 1833–1886); made by William Watt c. 1876 (English, 1834-1885)
  • Date Created: About 1876
  • Physical Dimensions: With leaves extended: 181.6 × 255.3 × 50.2 cm (71 1/2 × 100 1/2 × 19 3/4 in.)
  • Type: Furniture
  • External Link: The Art Institute of Chicago
  • Media: Ebonized mahogany with glass, silvered brass
  • Credit Line: The Art Institute of Chicago, restricted gift of Robert Allerton, Harry and Maribel G. Blum, Mary and Leigh Block, Mary Waller Langhorne, Mrs. Siegfried G. Schmidt, Tillie C. Cohn, Richard T. Crane, Jr. Memorial, Eugene A. Davidson, Harriott A. Fox, Florence L. Notter, Kay and Frederick Krehbiel, European Decorative Arts Purchase, and Irving and June Seaman endowments; through prior acquisition of the Reid Martin Estate, 2005.529
  • Artist: Designed by Edward William Godwin in 1867 (English, 1833–1886); made by William Watt c. 1876 (English, 1834-1885)

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