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Furnishing fabric - Strawberry Thief
  • Strawberry Thief
    William Morris, born 1834 - died 1896
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Strawberry Thief

  • Object:

    Furnishing fabric

  • Place of origin:

    London, England (made)

  • Date:

    1883 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    William Morris, born 1834 - died 1896 (designer)
    Morris & Co. (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Indigo-discharged and block-printed cotton

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Morris & Co.

  • Museum number:

    T.586-1919

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, room 125f, case WS

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This printed cotton furnishing textile was intended to be used for curtains or draped around walls (a form of interior decoration advocated by William Morris), or for loose covers on furniture. This is one of Morris best-known designs. He based the pattern and name on the thrushes which frequently stole the strawberries in the kitchen garden of his countryside home, Kelmscott Manor, in Oxfordshire. Despite the fact that this design was one of the most expensive printed furnishings available from Morris & Co., it became a firm favourite with clients.

The pattern was printed by the indigo discharge method, an ancient technique used for many centuries mostly in the East. Morris admired the depth of colour and crispness of detail that it produced. He first attempted to print by this method in 1875 but it was until 1881, when he moved into his factory at Merton Abbey, near Wimbledon, that he succeeded.

In May 1883 Morris wrote to his daughter, 'I was a great deal at Merton last week ... anxiously superintending the first printing of the Strawberry thief, which I think we shall manage this time.' Pleased with this success, he registered the design with the Patents Office. This pattern was the first design using the technique in which red (in this case alizarin dye) and yellow (weld) were added to the basic blue and white ground.

Physical description

Furnishing fabric of indigo-discharged and block-printed cotton. Strawberry Thief pattern with birds, strawberries and flowers.

Place of Origin

London, England (made)

Date

1883 (made)

Artist/maker

William Morris, born 1834 - died 1896 (designer)
Morris & Co. (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Indigo-discharged and block-printed cotton

Dimensions

Height: 60.5 cm, Width: 95.2 cm

Object history note

Designed by William Morris (born in London, 1834, died there in 1896); made by Morris & Co. at the Merton Abbey Works, near Wimbledon, London

Descriptive line

Strawberry Thief

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Morris was inspired to draw this design after finding thrushes stealing fruit in his garden. This complicated and colourful pattern is printed by the indigo discharge method and took a long time to produce. Consequently, it was expensive to buy. Despite this it became one of Morris & Co.'s most commercially successful textiles and is now his most recognisable design. [27/03/2003]

Materials

Cotton

Techniques

Block printed

Subjects depicted

Flowers; Birds; Strawberries

Categories

Textiles

Collection code

T&F

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Qr_O78889
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