Design thumbnail 1
Design thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E , Case CUP, Shelf 6

Design

ca. 1788-1792 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Design for a printed cotton by William Kilburn. He was born in Dublin and was apprenticed to a cotton and linen printer at Lucan, near Dublin. He moved to London and sold designs to calico printers, and drawings and engravings to print shops. The botanist William Curtis employed him to do some of the plates for the Flora Londiniensis. Subsequently Kilburn managed and then purchased a calico-printing factory at Wallington in Surrey. Dismayed at the pirating of his designs, he was involved in a successful petition to parliament in 1787 to protect the copyright of designs. Kilburn's pieces of muslin chintz are said to have sold for as much as a guinea a yard and he presented one of them (a seaweed pattern) to Queen Charlotte. But his exquisitely detailed fabrics had been copied, printed and marketed by rival firms within ten days of their first appearance at Brown, Rogers & Co., the wholesale linen drapers in Cheapside who were the proprietors of most of Kilburn's designs. These imitations were printed in fewer colours on cheaper cloth and, although coarser in appearance, were offered for sale at two-thirds of the price of the original.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
painted in watercolour on paper
Brief Description
Design from an album of designs for printed textiles (1788-1792) by William Kilburn
Physical Description
This design shows long brown branches with either blue or pink flowers, combined with red coral and some pink- and purple seaweed-like plants. In the centre of the design is a concentration of a white and pink flower surrounded by larger green leaves. The background is cream in colour. This design consists of 2 vertical sheets of paper that together form one design.
Dimensions
  • Height: 19cm
  • Width: 25cm
Credit line
Purchased from the funds of the Capt. H. B. Murray Bequest
Object history
William Kilburn was born in Dublin and was apprenticed to a cotton and linen printer at Lucan. He moved to London and sold designs to calico printers, and drawings and engravings to print shops. The botanist William Curtis employed him to do some of the plates for the Flora Londiniensis. Subsequently Kilburn managed and then purchased a calico-printing factory at Wallington in Surrey. Dismayed at the pirating of his designs, he was involved in a successful petition to parliament in 1787 to protect the copyright of designs. Kilburn's pieces of muslin chintz are said to have sold for as much as a guinea a yard and he presented one of them (a seaweed pattern) to Queen Charlotte. But his exquisitely detailed fabrics had been copied, printed and marketed by rival firms within ten days of their first appearance at Brown, Rogers & Co., the wholesale linen drapers in Cheapside who were the proprietors of most of Kilburn's designs. These imitations were printed in fewer colours on cheaper cloth and, although coarser in appearance, were offered for sale at two-thirds of the price of the original. In spite of his invention of so many original patterns, particularly his delicate seaweed motifs, Kilburn went bankrupt in April 1802.
Production
There is a furnishing fabric by William Kilburn, 1775, Circ.91-1960, and a printed cotton of about 1800 with a seaweed-like pattern which is possibly by William Kilburn, T.84-1991 in FTF.
Subject depicted
Summary
Design for a printed cotton by William Kilburn. He was born in Dublin and was apprenticed to a cotton and linen printer at Lucan, near Dublin. He moved to London and sold designs to calico printers, and drawings and engravings to print shops. The botanist William Curtis employed him to do some of the plates for the Flora Londiniensis. Subsequently Kilburn managed and then purchased a calico-printing factory at Wallington in Surrey. Dismayed at the pirating of his designs, he was involved in a successful petition to parliament in 1787 to protect the copyright of designs. Kilburn's pieces of muslin chintz are said to have sold for as much as a guinea a yard and he presented one of them (a seaweed pattern) to Queen Charlotte. But his exquisitely detailed fabrics had been copied, printed and marketed by rival firms within ten days of their first appearance at Brown, Rogers & Co., the wholesale linen drapers in Cheapside who were the proprietors of most of Kilburn's designs. These imitations were printed in fewer colours on cheaper cloth and, although coarser in appearance, were offered for sale at two-thirds of the price of the original.
Bibliographic References
  • Longfield, Ada, K. William Kilburn and the earliest Copyright acts for Cotton Printing Designs. The Burlington Magazine vol. XCV, 1953, pp.230-233.
  • Blunt, Wilfrid. The Art of Botanical Illustration. 1950, p.189
  • O'Brien, C. The British Manufacturers Companion and Calico Printers Assistant. 1792
Collection
Accession Number
E.894:61/1-1978

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record createdJune 11, 2008
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