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On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C , Case TOASTRACK

Wreath

Design
ca. 1880 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Dating from about 1880, this original wallpaper design by Morris & Co. is known as 'Poppy' or 'Wreath'. It shows clearly how William Morris's confidence in creating highly sophisticated pattern repeats had evolved by the late nineteenth century. The design's rich colours, scrolling foliage and effect of three-dimensionality are typical of Morris & Co.'s output from the mid-1870s onwards. Like the famous 'Acanthus' paper (Circ. 297-1955) from which it borrows the motif of stylised scrolling foliage, it is characterised by large-scale, very dense patterns where the relationship between background and foreground is closely interwoven. These later designs required a more complex printing technique and a far greater number of individual printing blocks. This made the papers more costly than Morris's simpler, earlier designs. Less medieval in style than 'Fruit' (E.299-2009), this design borrows more from the scrolling patterns of Jacobean floral embroidery.

The draughtsman responsible for this technically adept drawing may not have been Morris, as his strengths were more conceptual than illustrative. Instead, it is possible that the designer George Wardle (c. 1834-1910) executed this design for production, working from Morris's first version of the design, which is now in the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. Wardle was an excellent recorder of pattern and managed the Morris studio throughout the 1870s. This design was intended as a guide for the printer to use when matching the colours. Pencil notes with instructions about the colours have been added to the drawing on the front and on the reverse.

In addition to this design, the V&A holds specimens of the actual 'Wreath' wallpaper produced by Morris and Co. in different colourways. (E.500-1919, E.501-1919, E.535-1919).


object details
Categories
Object Type
Additional TitlePoppy (assigned by artist)
Materials and Techniques
Pencil, pen and ink, watercolour, and bodycolour on paper
Brief Description
Design for 'Wreath' wallpaper by William Morris for Morris & Co, about 1880.
Physical Description
Design showing poppies in pink, blue and white against a dense ground of swirling acanthus leaves, in various shades of green, with a wide border of paper around the rectangular design on which are technical annotations, for production. The top left corner of the paper has been cut and removed.
Dimensions
  • Height: 68.6cm
  • Widest part width: 52.3cm
  • Narrowest part width: 51.4cm
Production typeDesign
Marks and Inscriptions
  • 'MORRIS & Co. / MERTON ABBEY WORKS, / Surrey' (Printed on reverse of design.)
  • '17 / George Street / MORRIS / Hanover Square / London W1' (Stamped in black ink within an oval on the reverse of the wallpaper.)
  • 'No. 24 / a / WREATH / Poppy 83' (On a label stuck to the reverse of the wallpaper. These might be edition numbers.)
  • 'Wall Paper Portfolio' (In pencil within brackets on reverse of design.)
  • '1st acanthus' bracket 'yellowgreen. No.1. / shade - no. 2 / outline of veins No. 3 / blotch of vein No. 4 / '2nd. / acanthus' bracket / blue green No. 5 / shade No. 6 / outline ofvein No. 3 / blotch of vein No. 5 / small leaves / and stems' / bracket / 'blotch No. 7 / veins No 3 / ground No 8 / outline of flowers No 8 / white flowers . blotch white No. 17 / darkgreylines No 9 / light grey shade No 10 / pink flowers 3 shades ofpink / Nos. 11. 12. 13. / blueflowers 3 shades ofblue Nos. 14. 15. 16 / bosses offlowers white ofpink flowers No 17 / green of blueflowers No. 1 / print of bosses No. 3 [crossed out in pencil] / print on Bosses No. 18' (Technical instructions handwritten in pen and ink arranged in a column on the left margin of the design. The last instruction at the bottom of the column is in pencil.)
  • 'No. 4004 / Wreath / Wall Paper ' (Handwritten in pencil beneath the design in the centre and to the left bottom. The number is probably an edition number.)
  • 'Top gauge / 1st drop / 2nd drop / 3rd Drop / 4th Drop / 5th Drop' (Technical instruction written in pencil in the top right corner with the last instruction positioned three inches below the second last one.)
Credit line
Purchased with Art Fund support
Production
Attribution note: Linda Parry stated that 'The specific instructions on the side show it [this design] was meant specifically to be used by Jeffrey & Co. who produced all of the Morris papers. It leaves no margin for error by them.'
Subjects depicted
Summary
Dating from about 1880, this original wallpaper design by Morris & Co. is known as 'Poppy' or 'Wreath'. It shows clearly how William Morris's confidence in creating highly sophisticated pattern repeats had evolved by the late nineteenth century. The design's rich colours, scrolling foliage and effect of three-dimensionality are typical of Morris & Co.'s output from the mid-1870s onwards. Like the famous 'Acanthus' paper (Circ. 297-1955) from which it borrows the motif of stylised scrolling foliage, it is characterised by large-scale, very dense patterns where the relationship between background and foreground is closely interwoven. These later designs required a more complex printing technique and a far greater number of individual printing blocks. This made the papers more costly than Morris's simpler, earlier designs. Less medieval in style than 'Fruit' (E.299-2009), this design borrows more from the scrolling patterns of Jacobean floral embroidery.



The draughtsman responsible for this technically adept drawing may not have been Morris, as his strengths were more conceptual than illustrative. Instead, it is possible that the designer George Wardle (c. 1834-1910) executed this design for production, working from Morris's first version of the design, which is now in the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. Wardle was an excellent recorder of pattern and managed the Morris studio throughout the 1870s. This design was intended as a guide for the printer to use when matching the colours. Pencil notes with instructions about the colours have been added to the drawing on the front and on the reverse.



In addition to this design, the V&A holds specimens of the actual 'Wreath' wallpaper produced by Morris and Co. in different colourways. (E.500-1919, E.501-1919, E.535-1919).
Associated Object
Bibliographic Reference
Harvey, Charles and Press, Jon. William Morris. Design and Enterprise in Victorian Britain. Manchester Uniersity Press, 1991. p.46 and 78.
Collection
Accession Number
E.300-2009

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record createdJune 19, 2009
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