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!)