Archive for the wallpaper Category

The Talented Mr. Crane

Posted in 19th cent., Aesthetic Movement, peacocks, wallpaper, Walter Crane on July 9, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Inexhaustible,might be more apt.

Most folks seem to be aware of Crane as a designer of really sublime wall-coverings, that is justifiable as the following paper illustrates.

Fig & Peacock


Jeffrey & Company



Walter Crane started out as a child prodigy, beginning as an apprentice at the tender age of twelve to the master engraver W.J. Linton. At seventeen he became an independent illustrator, from that ridiculously young age he began his glorious career. It makes me rather ill.

Walter Crane

1886, aged 41

b. 15th August 1845

d. 14th March 1915

As a designer of gorgeous papers, I feel he has no match. I know Morris is god, but for me , Crane’s narrative quality cannot be matched.Pattern by Morris tastefully recedes, Crane’s design thrust their presence forward. i consider that to be a positive quality.

This marvelous dado/frieze is a great example of his powerful yet poetic design.

Wall-paper Frieze


Jeffrey & Company


What I find most fascinating about Crane is his command of line. The man was a master. He had little patience with his contemporaries who were smudging away with charcoal smears and frantic ink hatching. In his writing, “The Claims of Decorative Arts” 1892, he ridiculed “the want of invention and the absence of purity and precision of line”.

He certainly practiced what he preached, the following illustrations attest to that fact. The line work is pure, convincing,  and Hellenistic. Like Flaxman without the chastity.

The Sleeping Beauty


This is a good example of Crane’s amazing ability at creating interior spaces. Rooms you want to live in.

He made mention of this sort of design work when he said ” However , if they did not bring in much money, I had my fun out of them, as in designing. I was in the habit of putting in all sorts odd  subsidiary detail that interested me, and often made them the vehicle for my ideas in furniture and decoration. ” ( An Artist’s Remembrances, 1907) . Some of his most popular work was in the illustration work for Aesop’s fables. These well loved fables proved fertile ground for Crane’s active mind. I have chosen a few favorites.

Baby’s Own Aesop

front cover


title page


Again, a complex design for a simple function, listing the contents.

I was unfamiliar with this particular fable, but the poor picked upon bat toiuches my heart.

Bats and peacocks are always a favorite theme.

Cranes are also  pretty marvelous.

With this final charming image I close.

Good night.

False Principles of Design, a reaction to the Great Exhibition

Posted in 1851 Great Exhibition, False Principles of Design/1853, Henry Cole, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha, wallpaper on June 30, 2010 by babylonbaroque

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



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



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?


David Walker, manufacturer


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



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.


Heywood, Higginbottom & Smith



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


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:


late 19th century


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.