We do not agree with Mr. Pullan that, to the exclusion of other services, Gothic is best for ecclesiastical buildings, and we can only regard with curiosity the frankness which professes that " the Italian or French Renaissance is the most suitable style for public offices and such like edifices, in which light and air are the chief necessities; and that pure classic, Greek or Roman, is best for museums or public buildings of a monumental character, where dignity of effect has chiefly to be studied." Was it in vain that Sir Charles Barry succumbed to Palmerstonian logic and force majeure, turned his masterpiece inside out, and took comfort in erecting as a giant hotel that jewel of a design which was meant for a Government office? Would Burges agree that the "Italian or French Renaissance" (one would like to know which is meant) will do for public offices? Would Street be satisfied with the notion that "light and air" are not to be had from Gothic windows fifty feet high, as at Westminster? Will the learned Surveyor of St. Paul's accept these dicta?
....It is obvious that even the vulgarized "Queen Anne" style owes much popularity to that considerable freedom its professors, wise in their generation, have adopted from Gothic principles, if not also from Gothic types. Hundreds of new public buildings in this country comprise hardly a dozen that are really "classical," while even the exceptions show that Greek and Roman are alike as dead as Queen Anne herself.
The fact is that, as with the Dutch builders of the originals of the so-called "Queen Anne" types, our architects desired to catch the favor of people whose awakening taste had only taught them to hate the formality of current fashion in design, and, owing to the ignorance and incapacity of the workmen at their command, they were compelled to be satisfied with coarse mouldings and vulgar modes of ornamentation. With the old Dutch builders (one ought not to call them architects whose utmost merit was sincerity) the results of their circumstances were closely analogous to our own. When the Dutch nation had achieved its freedom, the ecclesiastical arts, which had previously been welcomed in secular service (and had fructified in the town halls of Damme, Ypres, Brussels, and, less admirably, Louvain), were not tolerated by a race which in the white heat of persecution had become a victorious people. The Dutch nation would have nothing to do with the art of their enemies. When the war against the hated German and Spaniard was over, the skilled craftsmen, with their long inherited facility and just artistic technique, were simply nowhere. Peace following brought abundant wealth and the never failing desire to build. The crude skill of incompetent workmen had to be appealed to. The result was that inorganic, blundering, and pretentious style which our popular architects have agreed to call "Queen Anne."
The fine taste of Mr. Pullan has, despite the cynical unreserve of his utterances, chosen for these "studies" a very large proportion of examples of legitimate and beautiful styles, void of mechanical, vulgar, and frivolous manifestations. Architects will value the illustrations of the churches at Baveno and Hawarden, and certain "studies" by the author for the War Office (a fine example of style and vigor) and a less powerful design for the Foreign Office.
-The Athenaeum, Jul. to Dec., 1884