Saxon wallpaper pattern of roses, Walter Crane

Saxon wallpaper pattern of roses, Walter Crane

Wallpaper entitled 'Saxon'
Walter Crane
England
1909
Colour print from woodblocks
Width 20.5 cm x height 29 cm
Museum no. E.2324-1932

Pattern
The pattern has a horizontal emphasis and is a type known as a brick repeat. It has a pattern unit of a rose organised in a horizontal mirror arrangement. The roses have stems facing the same way on one row and then the other way on the row below.

Processes and Techniques
This wallpaper is a colour print from a woodblock. This technique of printing is known as a relief process. In this particular process the printing surface is raised above the areas which are to remain blank. The printing surface is a block of wood known as a woodblock. The surface of the woodblock is inked with a sticky ink which is thick enough to stop it from flowing into the hollows. The pattern is formed by cutting hollows into the woodblock with a sharp tool known as a burin. The cut-away hollows are thus lower than the surface which carries the ink. Most relief colour prints have been printed from several different woodblocks. Each woodblock is cut with a different part of the pattern left on the surface. This surface carries the ink. The surface of each woodblock then prints a particular part of the pattern in its own unique colour. The printer positions each woodblock in the correct place on the paper by using pins in the corner of the woodblock. Then each separate colour is printed in the right place by each different woodblock. The relief colour print is then said to be 'in register'.

The Designer
Walter Crane (1845-1915) was born in Liverpool, England and was the son of an artist. In 1859 he was apprenticed to a William Linton, a London wood engraver where he trained as a draughtsman on wood. Crane was a leading figure in the Arts and Crafts movement. This movement was an informal combination of architects, designers and craftsmen who shared the ideals of the architect/ designer, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, the artist/ art critic, John Ruskin and the artist/craftsman and businessman, William Morris. The members of the Arts and Crafts movement disliked the machine and especially the mainstream commercial manufacturers. They hoped to influence people to share their vision of society where only necessary and useful things would be made by designer/craftsmen and -women. They formed various guilds and societies but the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society was probably the most important. This Society held its first show in London in 1888 and it continued to hold exhibitions in the 1920s.

Crane was celebrated for his subtle use of colour and stylised forms. He is best known for his paintings and illustrations for children's books. He was convinced that functional objects should be well designed and visually pleasing, and produced designs for wallpapers, textiles and ceramics. Crane designed over fifty wallpapers for Jeffrey & Co., the wallpaper manufacturing firm, from 1874. He also published important books on design. In 1888 he helped to establish the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. A dedicated teacher, Crane headed the Art Workers' Guild, the Manchester School of Art and the Royal College of Art. He also lectured internationally.

This wallpaper can be found in Prints and Drawings Study Room box EDUC 7A.