The Alhambra in Grenada is the most popular tourist attraction in Spain with around three million visitors per year. A new exhibition has just opened there called ‘Owen Jones and the Alhambra, Islamic design: discovery and vision’.
Curator Abraham Thomas explained who Owen Jones was: “He was such an important figure for the development of design, reform and education in the 19th century in England. And what I found particularly fascinating about his work was his fascination and interest in Islamic design, and using Islamic design to inspiration a new direction in Victorian design.”
Owen Jones was inspired by the Islamic ornaments which he studied during two visits to the Alhambra in 1834 and 1837. Most of the works in the exhibition come from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
The exhibition area is divided into four areas, separated by three colours, blue, golden-yellow and red. They were chosen because they were the main colours Owen Jones used in his works, and because they are also the main colours of the Alhambra itself.
The exhibition includes photos, vases, glazed ceramics, books and paintings. Heavily featured is the Crystal Palace in London. Jones was responsible for the decoration of the palace and the arrangement of the exhibits at the Great Exhibition in 1851.
All sorts of exhibits are included: drawings, silks, watercolour reproductions of the Alhambra, vases, and Jones’ most seminal work ‘The Grammar of Ornament’, a book detailing his theory of ornamentation.
Curator Mariam Rosser-Owen explained the significance of the event: “For us the most important thing about this exhibition in the Alhambra is the fact that we feel that Owen Jones has come back to the Alhambra for the first time since 1834, when he first visited the Alhambra and was so inspired that he totally transformed his whole attitude to design. Owen Jones’ works, side by side with the world that inspired him in the first place. So, we are very happy to be here.”
The exhibition runs until 28 February, when it will move to the United Arab Emirates.