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Read, Watch and Listen

‘Peacock’ wallpaper dado designed by E W Godwin

Registered by Jeffrey & Co on 18 February 1873. BT 43/100/270551

E W Godwin helped to popularise the Anglo-Japanese style, one of the defining characteristics of the Aesthetic movement. He introduced one of the movement’s most popular symbols, the peacock, shown here in the highly stylised form of a Japanese crest or mon. The diagonal ‘H’ pattern in the background was also derived from Japanese ornament. This formal peacock design was intended for use as a dado, with another of his designs, ‘Bamboo’, an informal, asymmetrical design, as the filling, or main section of wallpaper. The three-part division of walls into a dado, filling and frieze became a distinctive feature of Aesthetic design.

‘Persian sprig’ wallpaper designed by Owen Jones

Registered by John Trumble and Company on 23 June 1858. BT 43/97/114061. ‘Persian Sprig’ again reflects Jones’ interest in Islamic design. It also demonstrates his design precepts. He said that ‘all direct representations of nature in paper hangings should be avoided’ but instead natural forms should be ‘conventionalised’, or stylised, and distributed across the surface using geometric principles. Jones was well-known as a colour theorist, and received high praise for his colour schemes for the interior of the Crystal Palace. For wallpapers, he said that colours should be blended so that from a distance they would present ‘a neutralised bloom’.

‘Star’ wallpaper by designed by E W Godwin

Registered by William Watt on 21 July 1876. BT 43/101/302033. Godwin showed a strong interest in wallpaper design, providing patterns for several leading companies. He produced wallpapers in a wide range of styles, but while highly original, his work was in keeping with the precepts of the design reformers, with designs such as ‘Star’ – one of only a few surviving examples of his wallpapers – featuring flat, conventionalised natural forms. Asymmetry was closely associated with Anglo-Japanese design, and was in sharp contrast to the strict symmetry found in the work of designers like Owen Jones.

‘The Kitchen Buffet’, illustration by James Kingsland

Mary and Russel Wright, Guide to Easier Living, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1954 (1950). Permission Russel Wright Studios CC-BY.

Hosting domestic dinner parties without the assistance of staff is a major topic of twentieth-century domestic advice. Mary and Russel Wright, leading designer of casual mid-century modern ceramics, proclaim the social benefits of buffet suppers and asking guests to clear up after the meal. Illustrator James Kingsland here provides a clear picture of how the tradition-busting buffet supper works for home entertaining.

‘The Sleeping Beauty’ wallpaper designed by Walter Crane

Registered by Jeffrey & Co on 21 August 1879. BT 43/103/338553

Well-known as an illustrator of children’s books, Walter Crane designed a number of nursery wallpapers for Jeffrey & Co, including The Sleeping Beauty. Like William Morris, Crane believed that the decorative arts had symbolic potential. Morna O’Neill (2010) has discussed the way in which Crane returned to the theme of The Sleeping Beauty throughout his career. For example, in an essay of 1892 he refers to ‘the sense of beauty’ who, ‘like the enchanted princess in the wood, seems liable, both in communities and individuals, to periods of hypnotism’.

‘The Sunflower’ wallpaper designed by Bruce Talbert

Registered by Jeffrey & Co on 22 January 1878. Bruce Talbert was one of the most prolific and influential designers of the nineteenth century, who designed furniture and metalwork as well as wallpapers and textiles. His ‘sunflower’ series of wallpapers were his most popular, and his style, with its use of flat patterns and sharply delineated flowers, fruit and leaves, was much imitated. This design was displayed at the International Exhibition in Paris in 1878, where it won a gold medal. The sunflower was perhaps the most popular and enduring motif of the Aesthetic movement, appearing in wallpapers, textiles, ceramics and even in the external brickwork of buildings.

‘The Ties That Bind (II)’

Although communication intentions for the panels were specific, each image and composition was open to multiple interpretations. Readings of the textiles were inevitably informed by viewers’ personal and cultural experiences, their own memories, histories, and wider social and historical knowledge. Evidence of contextual influence on interpretations of the work also emerged at some sites, with viewers associating the images with local or regional history.

‘Vulgarity’, Portrait by John Deakin, jugs photographed by Elsie Collins

Image in Alan Jarvis, The Things We See No. 1 Indoors and Out, West Drayton, Middlesex: Penguin, 1946, 47. Permission, Design Council / University of Brighton Design Archives. CC-BY.

Jarvis shows how visual rhetoric can communicate class and gender norms. He contributes to a tradition of teaching consumers to distinguish between good and bad, which extends back to nineteenth-century design reform, for example Augustus Welby Pugin’s True Principles (1841). Jarvis wrote ‘…by vulgarity we mean just this kind of coarseness of body, cheapness of ornament, and insensitive application of make-up. The parallel in the case of pottery is exact, in its florid shape and crude cosmetic decoration’. 

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Speakers at the "Beyond the Battlefields: Käthe Buchler's Photographs of Germany in the Great War" exhibit. Copyright for images at the exhibit: German Photographic Museum in Braunschweig, Lower Saxony.

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From the "Beyond the Battlefields: Käthe Buchler's Photographs of Germany in the Great War" exhibit. Copyright: German Photographic Museum in Braunschweig, Lower Saxony.