A compelling discussion of the aesthetic movement in Britain was marred by presenter Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen's wearying jauntiness
It was a fair way into House Beautiful (Radio 4) before I realised that one of the guests was much more charismatic than presenter Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen (pictured). Christine Lalumia from the Geffrye Museum was as easy on the ear as Llewelyn-Bowen was annoyingly perky, and it was a relief to hear her sensible assertions about the aesthetic movement in Britain. Japanese ornamentation was wildly popular, she explained, when the country opened up to the rest of the world in 1850, because "they hadn't fallen foul of the huge great dangers and heinous crimes of mass production".
Llewelyn-Bowen knows his stuff, and I've liked his radio programmes in the past. But the jaunty emphasis, with syllables stressed here, THERE and everywhere soon grew wearying. I also winced at a link into a section about how aesthetes were lampooned in the press and beyond. "Hang on a moment," Llewelyn-Bowen boomed across jaunty music. "Emoting in front of objects? Surely the satirists had a field day?" It was a noisy, ugly bit of signposting.
Content-wise, though, the programme was fine, and its arguments about what distinguished the movement ? the first to have a "symbiosis with marketing, trade, celebrity, fame" mooted one contributor ? were compellingly made. It just needed to calm down a bit, and be rather less in love with its celebrity presenter.