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William Gomm

William Gomm (1698–1780) stands out as a distinguished figure in the realm of 18th-century London furniture making, leaving behind a legacy enriched by the elegance and complexity of Rococo design. Born in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, Gomm’s journey into cabinet making began with an apprenticeship under Hugh Maskall in London, eventually leading to his establishment as a leading craftsman and upholder in the city. His business, initially set up at Peterborough Court and later moved to the historic Newcastle House in Clerkenwell, became a center for the production of finely crafted furniture that captured the aesthetic preferences of the time.

Early Life and Apprenticeship

Gomm’s career in cabinet making took root following his apprenticeship with Hugh Maskall, a member of the Leathersellers’ Company, in 1713. Gaining a broad set of skills and an intricate understanding of furniture design and production, he emerged as a freeman of the Leathersellers’ Company, marking the beginning of a long and influential career in the craft.

Establishing His Business

By 1725, William Gomm had made a name for himself at Peterborough Court, Little Britain, within the parish of St. Bartholomew, Smithfield. His business flourished, leading him to relocate to Newcastle House by 1736, a significant move that provided both a residence and a spacious workshop for his expanding operations.

Family and Partnerships

Gomm’s personal life intertwined with his professional world, notably through his marriage to Dinah Cookman in 1728 and the subsequent involvement of his eldest son, Richard Gomm, in the business. The establishment of William Gomm & Son & Co. by 1763 marked a generational continuity in craftsmanship and business acumen.

Artistic Influence and Collaboration

The legacy of William Gomm is perhaps most vividly captured in a series of manuscript designs housed at the Henry Francis Du Pont Museum, Winterthur. These designs, dating from 1761, showcase a deep engagement with the Rococo style, characterized by its dynamic movement, ornamental richness, and integration of Chinese and Gothic tastes. Gomm’s work, as evidenced by these designs, navigated the intricate balance between the innovative spirit of Rococo and the influences of prominent designers like Chippendale, Lock & Copland, and Thomas Johnson.

Legacy

William Gomm’s contributions to furniture making extend beyond his individual creations to include a broader influence on the decorative arts of the period. His designs, encompassing a wide range of furnishings from looking-glasses to elaborate drawing-room schemes, reflect a sophisticated understanding of Rococo aesthetics combined with popular tastes of the era, such as the Chinese and Gothick styles. Though his name may not be as widely recognized as some of his contemporaries, Gomm’s craftsmanship and artistic vision continue to be celebrated by collectors and enthusiasts of 18th-century furniture, serving as a testament to the enduring beauty and complexity of Rococo design.

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