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Acanthus

  • Object:

    Wallpaper

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1875 (published)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Morris, William, born 1834 - died 1896 (designer)
    Jeffrey & Co. (manufacturer)
    Morris & Co. (publisher)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    colour block print on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr Allan F. Vigers

  • Museum number:

    E.800-1915

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case 2B, shelf DW, box 7

William Morris designed a number of wallpapers all with repeating patterns based on natural forms. This wallpaper was printed for Morris's company by the London firm Jeffrey & Co., who specialised in high quality 'Art' wallpapers. It required thirty wood blocks to print the full repeat, and used fifteen subtly different colours (more than any previous design by Morris). 'Acanthus' was issued in two colour combinations - one in shades of green and the other in predominantly reddish-brown tones.

'Acanthus' is a large-scale repeat which would appear to be most appropriate for large rooms. However Morris believed that a large pattern actually worked well in a small room. He explained that if it was well designed, a large pattern was more restful to look at than a small one. By the 1880s Morris wallpapers had become fashionable. When the wealthy Mander family furnished their newly built house, Wightwick Manor near Wolverhampton, they used Morris wallpapers in 13 of the rooms. 'Acanthus' was hung in one of the bedrooms.

Physical description

Specimen of 'Acanthus' wallpaper, foliate pattern of green acanthus leaves; Block-printed in distemper colours, on paper.
Part of a pattern book.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)

Date

1875 (published)

Artist/maker

Morris, William, born 1834 - died 1896 (designer)
Jeffrey & Co. (manufacturer)
Morris & Co. (publisher)

Materials and Techniques

colour block print on paper

Dimensions

Height: 54.2 cm, Width: 61.5 cm

Object history note

The 'Acanthus' design requires thirty separate woodblocks to complete the pattern.
Parry (see references) notes that: 'Acanthus was the first of a group of large-scale, heavily patterned and deep coloured papers: the others were Pimpernel (1876), Wreath (1876), Rose (1877) and Chrysanthemum (1877). The large size of this design requires thirty blocks to complete the pattern, making it an expensive paper costing 16s. a roll.'

Descriptive line

Specimen of 'Acanthus' wallpaper, foliate pattern of green acanthus leaves; Block-printed in distemper colours, on paper; Designed by William Morris; Published by Morris & Co.; Printed by Jeffrey & Co.; Part of a pattern book of Morris & Co. patterns (E.633-858-1915); England; 1875.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Oman, Charles C., and Hamilton, Jean. Wallpapers: a history and illustrated catalogue of the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Sotheby Publications, in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982.
Greysmith, Brenda. Wallpaper. London, 1976.
Clark, Fiona. William Morris Wallpapers and Chintzes. New York. 1973.
Parry, Linda, ed. William Morris London : Philip Wilson in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996. Published to coincide with an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, 9 May-1 Sept. 1996, pp.212, 213, ill.
Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design, Accessions 1915, London: Printed under the Authority of His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1916.

Materials

Printing ink

Techniques

Block printing

Subjects depicted

Foliation (pattern); Acanthus

Categories

Wall coverings; Prints

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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