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Fruit

  • Object:

    Design

  • Place of origin:

    Greater London, England (made)

  • Date:

    1862 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    William Morris, born 1834 - died 1896 (designer)
    Webb, Philip Speakman, born 1831 - died 1915 (probably, designer)
    Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. (designer and maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pencil, pen and ink, watercolour, and bodycolour on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with the assistance of the Art Fund

  • Museum number:

    E.299-2009

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case TECHS

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This early wallpaper design by William Morris (1834-1896) is known as 'Fruit' or 'Pomegranate' and dates from around 1862. It borrows motifs from Morris's medieval-style tapestry work, displaying a historical influence that his early work in the decorative arts shares with the Pre-Raphaelite artists and with their supporter, the art critic John Ruskin. It also highlights his interest in naturalism and plant forms. At first, Morris tried to print his designs at his studio in Red Lion Square in oil colours from etched zinc blocks. The process did not work. To overcome this failure, he ordered traditional pearwood blocks to be cut for 'Fruit'. Production was then subcontracted out to Jeffrey & Co. of Islington, which specialised in the production of hand-printed wallpapers. Although Morris's designs were prohibitively expensive and initially the preserve of the wealthy, 'Fruit' is one the most enduringly popular. It became a favourite with the design-conscious middle-classes of late nineteenth century, and is still available from the Morris & Co. division of Sandersons, who own the original printing blocks.

Sections of this design vary in character, and it is probable that they are by different hands. The draughtsmanship of the olive branches is reminiscent of Morris's style, whilst the pomegranates have a robust quality which could link them to Philip Webb (1831-1915). The architect, Webb, often collaborated closely with Morris, and it was common practice for a working design to be passed around like this during its conception.

The olive branch motif does not appear in the actual printed wallpaper (E.3712-1927), yet it has obvious similarities with Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co.'s design by Philip Webb for the V&A's Green Dining Room, circa 1866. (E.5096-1960).

Physical description

Design arranged into four quarters showing an olive branch in the bottom left corner opposite which is a branch of unripe lemons and in the top left corner is a branch of oranges with a branch of pomegranates in the top right corner, all painted in naturalistic colours.

Place of Origin

Greater London, England (made)

Date

1862 (made)

Artist/maker

William Morris, born 1834 - died 1896 (designer)
Webb, Philip Speakman, born 1831 - died 1915 (probably, designer)
Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. (designer and maker)

Materials and Techniques

Pencil, pen and ink, watercolour, and bodycolour on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'MORRIS & Co. / MERTON ABBEY WORKS, / Surrey'
'17 / George Street / MORRIS / Hanover Square / London W1'
'No 14 [crossed out] / 10'
'Wall paper Portfolio'

Dimensions

Height: 64.9 cm, Width: 62.7 cm

Descriptive line

Design for 'Fruit' wallpaper by William Morris for Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co, about 1862.

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

Morris and Company 1861-1940. The Arts Council: 1961. 17 p., 17 no., ill. 1961.
Harvey, Charles and Press, Jon. William Morris. Design and Enterprise in Victorian Britain. Manchester University Press, 1991. p.46 and 78.

Exhibition History

The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco 18/02/2012-17/07/2012)
The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 (Musée d'Orsay 13/09/2011-15/01/2012)
New Acquisitions Gallery (Victoria and Albert Museum 01/09/2010-01/09/2010)
The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 (Victoria and Albert Museum 02/04/2011-17/07/2011)

Labels and date

'Fruit' was one of Morris' first wallpapers. In this early draft he realised that the delicacy of the olives would not work well in repeat with the other fruits. Peaches replace them in the final version. The olive motif reappeared a year later when Morris and Co was commissioned to decorate the V&A's Green Dining Room. now part of the Cafe. [September 2010]

Materials

Paper; Pencil; Watercolour; Ink; Bodycolour

Techniques

Drawing; Painting

Subjects depicted

Pomegranates (fruit); Oranges; Lemons; Olives; Wall-papers

Categories

Designs; Wall coverings

Production Type

Design

Collection code

PDP

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Qr_O250928
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