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Wallpaper design

  • Place of origin:

    England (designed)

  • Date:

    1891 (designed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    C. F. A. Voysey, born 1857 - died 1941 (designer)
    Essex & Co. (manufacturers)
    Newman, Smith & Newman Ltd (manufacturers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pencil, black chalk and watercolour, on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case EDUC, shelf 7A

Designers like William Morris, Walter Crane and the young Charles Voysey were working at the forefront of design in the late 1880s and 1890s. They considered flat stylised patterns, of the kind seen in this design, more suitable for decorating walls than figurative or naturalistic patterns with shadows and the illusion of depth. This was because they thought that figurative subjects, or those which imitated reality by using perspective and shading, were creating a false impression on a flat surface. The majority of consumers, however, favoured the more traditional styles which were also for sale during this period.

This is a design for intended for both a wallpaper and a textile. The wallpaper manufacturers Essex & Co.bought this design as it is, but the firm of Newman, Smith & Newman, who printed cotton textiles, bought the same design without the bird.

Physical description

Design (unfinished) for a wallpaper and a textile showing a repeating pattern of birds perched amongst plants. The pattern is a half drop repeat with a horizontal mirror arrangement. Only the central pattern unit is coloured in watercolour. The bird is blue, the large leaves above its head are green and the large flower is yellow. The rest of the pattern is in pencil or black charcoal and in some parts the pattern is merely suggested; Pencil, black chalk and watercolour, on paper.

Place of Origin

England (designed)


1891 (designed)


C. F. A. Voysey, born 1857 - died 1941 (designer)
Essex & Co. (manufacturers)
Newman, Smith & Newman Ltd (manufacturers)

Materials and Techniques

Pencil, black chalk and watercolour, on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'Sold to Essex / & to Newman without bird / April 1891'
Textual information; On bottom border beneath design; Handwriting; Pencil

'Bird blue / Tree green / flower , yellow / underprint / green & yellow.'
Textual information; On bottom border beneath design


Height: 59.9 cm, Width: 54 cm

Descriptive line

Design by C. F. A. Voysey for a wallpaper and textile showing plants and bird, 1891

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

Oman, Charles and Hamilton, Jean. Wallpapers: A History and Illustrated Catalogue of the Collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Sothebys in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982. 435 p. ill. ISBN 0856670960.
John Murdoch and Susan Lambert, Summary Catalogue of Textile Designs 1840-1985 in the V. & A. Museum and colour microfiche, Surrey: Emmett Microform, 1986

Production Note

Attribution note: The inscription 'Sold ... & to Newman without bird' on the design refers to the firm of Newman, Smith & Newman, cotton printers who evidently did not require the bird in the design


Pencil; Chalk; Watercolour; Paper


Drawing; Painting

Subjects depicted

Bird; Half drop repeat pattern


Designs; Wall coverings; Textiles; Drawings


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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