Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, room WS

Fruit

Design
1862 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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).


object details
Categories
Object Type
Additional TitleWebb & Morris 'Fruit' wallpaper design (generic title)
Materials and Techniques
Pencil, pen and ink, watercolour, and bodycolour on paper
Brief Description
Design for 'Fruit' wallpaper by William Morris for Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co, about 1862.
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.
Dimensions
  • Sheet height: 638mm
  • Sheet width: 655mm
Production typeDesign
Marks and Inscriptions
  • 'MORRIS & Co. / MERTON ABBEY WORKS, / Surrey'
  • '17 / George Street / MORRIS / Hanover Square / London W1' (Stamped in black ink in an oval. There are two identical stamps on the back of the design.)
  • 'No 14 [crossed out] / 10' (In black watercolour at the top of the reverse of the wallpaper.)
  • 'Wall paper Portfolio' (In handwriting, in pencil, within a drawn oval on the reverse of the wallpaper.)
Gallery Label
'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)
Credit line
Purchased with Art Fund support
Subjects depicted
Summary
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).
Associated Object
Bibliographic References
  • 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.
Collection
Accession Number
E.299-2009

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record createdJune 19, 2009
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