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A visit to ‘The Art of Wallpaper - Morris & Co’ at Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh

This exhibition, curated by Mary Schoeser and supported by ample material from the Sanderson Design Group Archive, looks at the history and development of the Morris & Co brand. It includes works by artists who designed for Morris & Co, but who are frequently less well-acknowledged.

William Morris, ‘Bachelor’s Button’ 1892, Jeffrey & Co. for Morris & Co.


‘Bachelor’s Button’, a design currently being revived by the company, is based on the cornflowers worn by young men in their jacket buttonholes. If faded, the flower is said to be a symbol of unrequited love.


Some wonderful context is provided by leather wallcoverings, contemporary French papers and ‘kin-karakami’ Japanese imported papers, which inspired and influenced the Morris brand style, alongside papers attributed to Dresser, Pugin, Voysey and others.

Carved wooden printing block


Information is given on the methods of production, including a short video by Anstey Wallpaper Company demonstrating block printing. Pages from the Jeffrey and Co. logbooks and original wooden printing blocks add further background amidst the riot of naturalistic pattern and colour.

William Morris ‘Wreath’, 1876, Jeffrey & Co. for Morris & Co.


‘Wreath’ required 22 blocks to complete due to the extended height repeat of the design, almost twice the number needed for many seemingly more elaborate patterns.


William Morris ‘Fruit’, 1864, Jeffrey & Co. for Morris & Co.


‘Fruit’ was hung in the Fulham dining room of Edward Burne-Jones, the pre-Raphaelite painter and designer who was a co-founder of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co.


At the end of the exhibition, current Morris & Co merchandise is shown in a contemporary setting, in keeping with the current ‘maximalist’ trend.


A beautifully illustrated book supports the exhibition, and is an essential sourcebook for fans of wallpaper and surface design: https://shop.dovecotstudios.com/products/the-art-of-wallpaper-morris-co-in-context


‘The Art of Wallpaper’ runs until 11th June 2022.


Pauline Birdsall

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