Acanthus thumbnail 1
Acanthus thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, room 514a , Shelf 3, Case R, Box L

Acanthus

Wallpaper Design
1874 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
This is an original design made by Morris in the process of working out the repeat and the colouring for the 'Acanthus' wallpaper which was produced in 1875. It is a working drawing, on the same scale as the finished wallpaper, but it does not show the whole pattern. It was intended as a guide for the printer to use when matching the colours. Pencil notes with instructions and questions about the colours have been added to the drawing by the printer.

Designs & Designing
In the mid-1870s Morris moved away from his earlier style of small-scale patterns. 'Acanthus' was the first wallpaper in a group of large-scale heavy patterns printed in darker colours. These designs were more sophisticated than the earlier papers, and Morris successfully disguised the underlying geometric structure of the repeat. Some of the features of the drawing, such as the white highlights on the scrolling leaf at the top, were left out of the printed version of the pattern.

Materials & Making
The outlines were drawn in pencil and then filled in with watercolours. Morris then used an opaque white pigment to paint in the highlights. The stylised scrolling acanthus leaves were some of Morris's favourite motifs and occur regularly in his work, including his tapestries and his illuminated manuscripts.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
pencil, watercolour and bodycolour on paper
Brief Description
Design for 'Acanthus' wallpaper, a pattern of acanthus scrolls; Largely worked in watercolour; By William Morris; England; 1874.
Physical Description
Design for 'Acanthus' wallpaper, a pattern of acanthus scrolls; Largely worked in watercolour.
Dimensions
  • Unframed height: 81.5cm (Note: Grey BG frame: 936 x 782 x 30 mm)
  • Unframed width: 65.2cm
Dimensions checked: measured; 10/10/2000 by PaperCons Estimated as 90 x 80
Style
Production typeDesign
Marks and Inscriptions
Inscribed in pencil with colour notes and 'get Mr Morris to paint in front leaves'; inscribed on the back 'The property of Mr Morris 15/12/74'
Gallery Label
British Galleries: Morris first achieved his mastery of repeating patterns with wallpapers. This bold, clear watercolour drawing suggests, but does not include, all parts of the design. It also demonstrates his natural ability to draw patterns that repeat, a considerable skill. The pencil notes were made by the printer prior to producing the paper.(27/03/2003)
Object history
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.'
Subjects depicted
Summary
Object Type
This is an original design made by Morris in the process of working out the repeat and the colouring for the 'Acanthus' wallpaper which was produced in 1875. It is a working drawing, on the same scale as the finished wallpaper, but it does not show the whole pattern. It was intended as a guide for the printer to use when matching the colours. Pencil notes with instructions and questions about the colours have been added to the drawing by the printer.

Designs & Designing
In the mid-1870s Morris moved away from his earlier style of small-scale patterns. 'Acanthus' was the first wallpaper in a group of large-scale heavy patterns printed in darker colours. These designs were more sophisticated than the earlier papers, and Morris successfully disguised the underlying geometric structure of the repeat. Some of the features of the drawing, such as the white highlights on the scrolling leaf at the top, were left out of the printed version of the pattern.

Materials & Making
The outlines were drawn in pencil and then filled in with watercolours. Morris then used an opaque white pigment to paint in the highlights. The stylised scrolling acanthus leaves were some of Morris's favourite motifs and occur regularly in his work, including his tapestries and his illuminated manuscripts.
Associated Objects
Bibliographic References
  • 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.
  • Joanne Parker & Corinna Wagner, Art & soul : Victorians and the gothic, Bristol : Sansom & Co., 2014. ISBN: 9781908326652.
Collection
Accession Number
CIRC.297-1955

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
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