False Principles of Design, a reaction to the Great Exhibition

As well intentioned as the Great Exhibition of 1851 may have been, vulgarity always reins supreme.

I happen to love vulgarity, particularly if it has gathered dust and crackled varnish over the last 160 years.

Poor Mr. Cole was having a fit at the “False Principles” being peddled as “Design” at his wonderful showcase, the Great Exhibition. He was so peeved that he organized another exhibition in 1853 , the “False Principles of Design”, held at the Museum of Ornamental Art.

The following must have been particularly galling to Mr. Cole.

False Principle #28

Perspective Representation of the Crystal Palace

Heywood, Higginbottom & Smith

1853-1855

V&A

I imagine seeing his beloved Crystal Palace, exploited in such a shameless fashion was a great irritant; that it went against his Reform principles, just added insult. How marvelous that he was able to stage an exhibit to showcase his indignation. How often I have wished for such an opportunity.

False Principle #28 follows, I love  how scientific that sounds, we’re talking about wallpaper, not an airborne disease!

False Principle # 27

Potters of Darwen

1853

V&A

Apparently what really rubbed Mr. Cole the wrong way was the illusion of three dimensions. Eastlake, Morris, Dresser, all felt the same. I believe it is a “false principle” simply because it is so ugly. I have difficulty understanding railroad stations as an ornamental motif. To toss aside realistic representation in the ornamental arts seems unrealistic, narrow minded, and ignorant of design history. The 18th century is rich in fully rendered ornament, carpets, wall panels, and porcelain, just a small example.I understand the Reformers rejected much of 18th century art and design, I just don’t understand why, had the beauty not been apparent?

Wallpaper

David Walker, manufacturer

1895

Although not an example of a False Principle as the late date will show, but clearly the false principles flourished. The dimensional allusion is apparent, I imagine it was a popular paper, it is pretty in it’s fussy dark way.

wallpaper commemorating Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee

F. Scott & Son

1887

V&A

I feel strongly that this would have been deemed a False Principle, patriotism and love of your Queen aside.

I love it, can’t imagine the repeat,but I love it.

I’m always a sucker for allegory, in this instance allegories of Australia, India, Canada, and the Cape Colonies.

wallpaper

Heywood, Higginbottom & Smith

1870-1880

V&A

Again, not part of the exhibit, but the same manufacturer of False Principle # 28, was up to the same illusionary tricks.

Now, this is just ugly.

I’m with Messrs Cole, Morris, Dresser, Eastlake, et al. Ugly , butch crap.

The following isn’t ugly, it’s also a bit effete.

Wallpaper frieze

Color chiaroscuro print from wood blocks with machine printed background.

Jeffrey & Company

1851

This was NOT in the False Principals exhibit. It IS equestrian,, and it is beautiful. It is also ‘trompe l’oeil’, and it appears that it was shown at the Great Exhibition , with no evident criticism from Cole . I guess because it is attempting to capture the grandeur of the Elgin Marbles , Mr. Cole felt it passed muster.

Love the yellow.

Back to ugly:

Wallcovering

late 19th century

unknown

machine printed on laminated paper

I think it is safe to say that Mr. Cole would not approve.

I don’t approve, particularly given the fact that “nudie-girl’ paper needs to be on washable laminated paper. The insinution so apparent, so awful, so unsanitary.

Must confess to lusting after a similar reproduction paper in the 70’s of my youth, Mother said no.

All in all we owe a note of thanks to both Henry Cole and the Prince.

Thank you boys.

BTW, we also owe Mr. Cole a thanks for the first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, 1840,

and the first Christmas card, 1843

You just have to love the fellow.

So worried about our aesthetic welfare.

Good night.

Advertisements

3 Responses to “False Principles of Design, a reaction to the Great Exhibition”

  1. Great article. There are so many underlying issues in Victorian Britain when it came to the correct design principles, not all of them to do with design!

    • babylonbaroque Says:

      I am fascinated with the Reformers, with Exhibitions, with design being a public concern. With the sheer wealth of offerings. I am also fascinated with the truly grotesque, truly Victorian hybrids that were produced. I dont know how they were able to work in a particular Louis style and somehow not capture its essence. I have the same problem/approach to my work, it is always too bold, too vulgar, and too sham. Delighted to be in contact with you, just discovered your carpet-weavings postings, alien territory for me, will continue reading. Have a great day, Leonard

  2. babylonbaroque Says:

    I’m obsessed with International Exhibitions, gathering info about the Centennial Exhibition in my hometown of Philly. I confess I really do love the “sham” offerings.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: