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Wreath

  • Object:

    Wallpaper

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1876 (Produced)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Print on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Morris and Company

  • Museum number:

    E.501-1919

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125, Edwin and Susan Davies Gallery, case WE

Object Type

In Britain, paper printed with patterns has been used for decorating walls since the 16th century. By the late 19th century wallpapers were widely used by all classes, in homes and also in public buildings.

Materials & Making

This wallpaper was printed using wood-blocks cut by a family firm Barrett's in Bethnal Green, who dealt directly with Morris's firm in the transfer of designs. The London firm Jeffrey & Co., who specialised in high quality 'Art' wallpapers, printed them in distemper, water-based colours which gave a thick chalky effect. A large number of shades could be achieved using these methods.

Between 1875 and 1885 the firm greatly expanded its range, creating 21 designs for different budgets. By 1890, Morris charged between 53 and 80 pence per roll for 'Wreath', placing it in the top price bracket.

Morris advised his customers on the use of different types of patterns for decorative effects and stated that 'if there is a reason for keeping the walls quiet choose a pattern that works well all over without pronounced lines, such as the Diapers, Mallows, Venetians, Poppy, Scroll, Jasmine' and 'if you venture on a more decided patterning you ought always to go for positive patterns [such as] the Daisy, Trellis, Vine, Chrysanthemum, Lily, Honeysuckle, Larkspur, Rose, Acanthus'.

Morris designed a number of wallpapers all with repeating patterns based on natural forms. He asked in his published lecture, 'Some Hints on Pattern-Designing', whether it is 'not better to be reminded however simply of the close vine trellises which keep out the sun [...] than having to count day after day a few sham-real boughs and flowers, casting sham-real shadows on your walls, with little hint of anything beyond Covent Garden in them?' However he also advised that 'the more mechanical the process [like paper-staining], the less direct should be imitation of natural forms'.

People route

William Morris was an English designer, writer and activist. As both a designer and theorist for the arts, his importance cannot easily be overestimated, and his influence continues. He was a committed Socialist and his objective was that art should be for the people and by the people, as in the Middle Ages. This was a view expressed in a number of his writings. He left his training as an architect and studied painting amongst members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of artists who rejected what they viewed as uninspiring academicism in painting and founded a movement in 1848. Decades later, Morris founded his own firm, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. which became Morris & Co. in 1875. Both firms produced stained glass, furniture, wallpaper and fabrics.

Place route

Morris changed the way in which people of comparatively modest income decorated their homes. By designing and selling Morris products in a single outlet, first in out-of -the-way Bloomsbury, and from 1877 in a building in Oxford Street, he enabled the homeowner to decorate in a co-ordinated way. Morris's firms were one of the first 'one-stop shops' for interior decoration.

Physical description

Specimen of 'Wreath' wallpaper, a foliate pattern of entwined green leaves and blue flowers; Print on paper; Inscribed on the back in ink with title, number and price.
Part of 'Volume 1', a pattern book containing 25 Morris & Co. patterns from 1862-81 (E.441-529-1919).

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

1876 (Produced)

Artist/maker

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

Materials and Techniques

Print on paper

Marks and inscriptions

Inscribed on the back in ink with title, number and price.

Dimensions

Height: 68.5 cm size of volume, Width: 53.3 cm size of volume

Object history note

Given by Morris & Co.

Descriptive line

Specimen of 'Wreath' wallpaper, a foliate pattern of entwined green leaves and blue flowers; Print on paper; William Morris; Part of 'Volume 1', a pattern book containing 25 Morris & Co. patterns from 1862-81 (E.441-529-1919); England; 1876.

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.
Harvey, Charles and Jon Press. William Morris: Design and Enterprise in Victorian Britain. Manchester University Press, 1991.
Parry, Linda, [Ed.]. William Morris. London: PhilipWilson Publishers in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996.
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.
Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design & Department of Paintings, Accessions 1919, London: Printed Under the Authority of His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1921

Labels and date

[Draft]
6 'WREATH' WALLPAPER AS PRODUCED
1876

This is a sample of finished wallpaper from the design on the left. Between 1875 and 1885 the firm greatly expanded its range, creating 21 designs for different budgets. By 1890, Morris charged between 53 and 80 pence per roll for ‘Wreath’, placing it in the top price bracket. Morris believed that ‘the more mechanical the process [like paper-staining], the less direct should be imitation of natural forms’. Though hatching adds 3-dimensionality, this is still surface pattern.

Block printed in distemper colours on paper
Designed by William Morris; printed in London by Jeffrey & Co. for Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co.
Given by Morris & Co.

Museum no. E.501-1919 [2010]

Production Note

Within pattern book Volume 1 (1862-81).

Materials

Paper

Techniques

Printing

Subjects depicted

Leaves (plant materials); Flowers; All-over pattern; Foliation (pattern)

Categories

Wall coverings

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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