Posted on | October 29, 2008 | No Comments
Having arrived in San Francisco from Maine, Bruce found himself in neighborhoods like nothing he had encountered before: A seemingly endless stock of elaborately ornamented Victorian row houses. Many of the yet unpainted ladies he saw had the worn patina of age and forlorn dignity. Once inside, Bruce was “astonished” at their high ceilings and proportions, and the dizzying variety of architectural details that formed each ones’ unique “signature”. He was mesmerized by the magic of it all, even with the apparent neglect or abuse many of them were suffering, (especially in the Haight).
Now living communally in one of the old “faded ladies”, he was just trying to work to feed himself and survive. While there he studied the city that would later provide many of the first parlors, dining rooms and bedrooms his wallpaper would embellish. But that was in the future. When the dreams of the Summer of Love started fading, Bruce saved his earnings and flew to England to get a first-hand look at the work of the great Victorian art reformists he had been reading about.
He would soon be found hanging out in the basement of London’s Tate Gallery, where the paintings of many Pre-Raphaelites were exhibited. He was befriended by a guard who noticed Bruce’s focused area of interest. He asked, “Have you been to Hammersmith?” suggesting that he might appreciate the work of William Morris displayed at his former home Kelmscott.
Bruce immediately made the trip, and though he found it interesting, “the strings didn’t start to play for him”… not yet. What he did find remarkable however was a painting by Walter Crane, (a friend and contemporary of Morris) a designer and illustrator for whom he held great admiration. To his surprise, Crane was not the accomplished painter Bruce imagined he would be. Of course, neither had Morris been. So at least in the case of Crane and Morris, two of England’s most brilliant 19th century wallpaper artists, great pattern designing skills had not always translated well on to canvas…