We are familiar with the interiors and furniture of Thomas Hope chiefly through his 1807 book, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, and its exquisitely restrained plates composed of thin black outlines on white grounds, free of all shading, shadow, or color. And so, faced here with more than 400 color illustrations of the real spaces and objects, we are dazzled by their vigor and presence. The images are just as elegant as the ones in his book but, with their outlines filled in, even more impressive.
Thomas Hope was the eldest son of John Hope, a Dutch merchant of Scottish extraction and a member of a very wealthy and powerful family of merchants and bankers who had settled, four generations earlier, in Holland.
By the early 1780s the merchant bank of Hope & Co were in the business of raising large sums for kings and governments throughout Europe and in the United States of America, and were recognised as one of Europe’s greatest banking dynasties.
After the death of his father in 1784, Thomas shared his father’s fortune with his two brothers but appears never to have been active in the management of the lucrative family business, which remained the source of his considerable wealth. The fortune allowed him to devote fill time energy to the arts.
Hope's extensive travels in Europe, Greece, Turkey and Egypt inspired his interest in antiquities as a source of designs for Regency interiors, furniture and metalwork.
Above Pictures: Regency Egyptian Revival Style Armchairs By Thomas Hope, Grand Thomas Hope Chair
After years of travel, Hope, at the age of twenty six, returned to acquire an Adam House in Duchess Street, Portland Place, London. This city was none other than the very city his family had fled to during 1794 in anticipation of the French invasion of Holland. The house was designed by Robert Adam, which he remodelled with a series of themed interiors. The colourful interiors of Duchess Street and of Hope's country house, Deepdene in Surrey, played a unique role in the history of collecting, interior design and display.
Both were open to select visitors, but his furniture reached an even wider public through his book, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration. Published in 1807, this book introduced the term 'interior decoration' into the English language.
Hope established himself in London as a scholarly collector of art, an interior designer and a patron of artists and craftsmen.
Records show how Hope’s considerable wealth enabled him to collect many paintings, sculptures, antique objects and books, which were displayed in the Duchess Street mansion and at the Deepdene, his country house in Surrey.
Thomas's brother shared his passion with collecting, and became influential in many London societies connected with the arts.
In 1804 Hope opened exhibition galleries, after having had the Duchess Street house extended by one of the foremost architects and designers of the period, Charles Heathcote Tatham, where visitors paid for admission by ticket. The popular view of Hope was as ‘the Furniture Man’. There he was met with compliments and enthusiastic supporters; but also hostile critics. Hope’s ambitions pressed on regardless of criticism as he sketched designs for furniture, room interiors which he included in books Household Furniture and Interior Decoration (1807); Costumes of the Ancients (1809); Designs of Modern Costumes (1812); and posthumously An Historical Essay on Architecture, with the illustrations based on early Hope drawings (1835).
Hope's influence continued long after his death, partly because of his book. His designs appeared in trade journals and books on interior design, and though the Duchess Street house was demolished in 1851. In 1917 his collection was dispersed in a great sale at The Deepdene. This led to a renewed interest in Hope's vision for objects designed by him. Collections were displayed in Europe and the USA, reaching a wider public view.
Hope's style influenced the Regency Revival of the 1920s and '30s, and even Art Deco design.