Walter Crane’s Swan Wallpaper

Posted on | April 25, 2011 | 9 Comments

As one of the most versatile and imaginative artists of the late nineteenth century, Walter Crane stood near the epicenter of the budding Arts & Crafts movement and proved one of its most successful and public advocates.

His early success as a commercial artist began with the publication of colored picture books for children published by Routledge starting in 1865. It wasn’t long after, however, that he was turning his talents toward the design of textiles, ceramics, embroidery, stained glass, gesso relief, mosaic and, (happily!), wallpaper.  With this particular creative outlet Crane demonstrated himself to be particularly brilliant and inventive.

His association with the wallpaper industry came after Metford Warner, the proprietor of the innovative firm Jeffrey and Co., invited Crane to submit a design based on his then popular childrens’ books. Crane did so, which was only the first of some fifty designs eventually produced by the firm. Crane produced seven patterns specifically for the domestic Victorian nursery, but with his sensitivity to flat wall pattern developing he was to expand his range of motifs beyond those tailored to the juvenile environment.

One of Crane’s earliest examples of this (first produced in 1877) was a frieze, filling and dado combination incorporating stylized irises, cattails, and kingfishers.  Among the available patterns in the set was an “optional” panel (above) with symmetrically opposed swans that could be pasted into a dado of repeating irises, sort of as a chair-level focal point for a room.  In its composition and style this particular panel alludes to Crane’s interest in the formality of classical design, contrasted with the remaining elements of the set that seemed to speak more to the popular Japanese taste then in fashion.

Now from April 2nd through July 17, 2011 Crane’s original design work-up of the Swan Wallpaper (panel) for Jeffrey & Co. will be on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, all part of “The Cult of Beauty” exhibit showcasing highlights from the Aesthetic Movement.  We’re happy to announce that in recognition of this exhibit we at Bradbury & Bradbury will be offering the Swan Wallpaper panel reproduced as a handprinted silk-screen poster on our website as of May 1st!  So, if you’re a fan of Walter Crane we invite you to look for it then!

(Incidentally, we also offer Crane’s spectacular “Lion & Dove” frieze (1901) as a poster as well!)


9 Responses to “Walter Crane’s Swan Wallpaper”

  1. Aileen Chatterton
    August 29th, 2011 @ 3:50 pm

    Is there any chance of Bradbury & Bradbury producing any Walter Crane wallpapers especially the “Sleeping Beauty” It used to be produced by Jeffrey & Co. UK.
    It is absolutely fabulous and I would love to see Bradbury produce it.

  2. steve
    September 2nd, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

    Thanks Aileen. Yes, Walter Crane’s designs rank very high with us. We actually produce several, including Lion & Dove frieze, Deer & Rabbit frieze and Adelphi frieze. We’ll consider your suggestion of producing Sleeping Beauty as well, it is a terrific pattern, and appreciate your feedback very much!

  3. Judy Gonzalez
    October 4th, 2011 @ 6:11 pm


    Could you provide any info on the Peacock series adapted by John Burrows from a Walter Crane design? I only have a small piece, maybe a yard but I’m interested in the history…

  4. steve
    October 4th, 2011 @ 6:46 pm

    This version is very close to the original created by Walter Crane and was adapted by John Burrows in the early 1980s from photos of the original. It was one of Bradbury’s earliest frieze adaptations and in fact its production had to be “subsidized” by interested customers to justify the expense of its development! Back then there were only three of us working here, (John Burrows, Bruce Bradbury and myself), and money was tight, like it is now!
    The Peacock frieze was originally part of a set that included a companion wallpaper called “Peacock Garden” that was full of Crane’s graphic exuberance and of course, more peacocks! It was considered too expensive and over-the-top by Bruce Bradbury to be put into production, even after the frieze became popular.

  5. steve
    October 4th, 2011 @ 6:52 pm

    Also, I should mention that John Burrows left Bradbury & Bradbury in the mid 80s to form his own successful decorative arts firm, J.R. Burrows & Co. and has since developed his own line of fine wallpapers, fabrics, carpets and lace.

  6. Judy Gonzalez
    October 11th, 2011 @ 8:19 pm

    Thank you so much for your very informative reply! I hadn’t meant for so much time to pass, I thought my email would alert me to a reply!

  7. Lara
    April 16th, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

    I too am interested in reproductions of Walter Crane’s work. I admire the friezes, but was hoping for either the “Sleeping Beauty” or the “Miss Mouse at Home” patterns… any suggestions on where one might find those, if Bradbury is not producing them? Thank you.

  8. Barry Johnson
    May 13th, 2012 @ 10:43 pm

    Can the swan poster be used with the Bradbury iris frieze in the manner you describe its being used originally?

  9. steve
    May 22nd, 2012 @ 8:53 pm

    Hi Barry. To answer your question, not too successfully. If we get enough requests folks we’ll produce the dado (and the rest of the set that Crane designed with it), so keep those cards and letters coming!!


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