Stuart Durant obituary | Design

My father, Stuart Durant, who died at the age of 88, was a writer and lecturer in design and architectural history. He wrote the key book Ornament: An Overview of Decoration since 1830 (1986), which has been translated into several languages; published extensively on the Arts and Crafts movement; and was an authority on 19th century designer Christopher Dresser. In 2011 he co-authored a book with lead architect Alastair Lansley on the regeneration of St. Pancras International.

Through his passion for antiquarian books, Stuart managed to reunite and revive the color reference library at the Royal College of Art in London, which still exists today. He was also the originator and first editor of the International Design Yearbook series, published annually from 1985 to 2007.

Stuart was born in Stepney, east London, to Welsh parents, Cyril Durant, a marine engineer, and Mary (nee Lewis), a teacher. After high school in Surbiton, Stuart undertook community service with the Royal Fusiliers Regiment and was then accepted into the Architectural Association.

He left the AA before qualifying after having some success with painting. He was selected for the Young Contemporaries exhibition (1959), followed by a traveling exhibition by the Arts Council. He joined the Old Vic as an aspiring painter and then worked for the BBC as a set designer (1962-64). In 1963 he studied scenography for a year in Milan before becoming a freelance television designer. It was during this period that he also began designing textiles, some of which were made by Edinburgh Weavers (1964).

In 1970 he attended the Royal College of Art for a Masters in Design History. His thesis dealt with Dresser and he was invited to write the introductory essay to a Fine Art Society exhibition on the designer (1972). In the same year he curated the exhibition Aesthetic Movement and the Cult of Japan of the Fine Art Society. Stuart later wrote an essay for the exhibition catalog for Shock of the Old: Christopher Dresser’s Design Revolution, which toured from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (2004).

In 1975, Stuart began teaching at the Farnham School of Art (now part of the Surrey Institute of Art & Design). From 1980 to 1990 he directed the art-historical component of the School of Three Dimensional Design at Kingston University, where he became a reader.

He spent a semester as a lecturer at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, West India (1989) and curated other exhibitions, including Architecture & Childhood (with Elizabeth Darling, 1993) at RIBA and The English Garden with Michael Whiteway. a traveling exhibition to Japan in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (2014-15). Stuart was also a talented musician, poet, and satirist.

In 1970 he married Ruth Doniach. They separated in 1995. Stuart is survived by his partner, botanical artist Joanna Langhorne, his children from his marriage, Miriam, Galia and me, and three grandchildren, Jeanie, Cosmo and Wren.

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