Birds and plants design for a wallpaper and textile
C.F.A. Voysey (1857-1941)
Pencil, black chalk and watercolour
Width 54 cm x height 59.9 cm
Museum no. E.267-1913
The pattern is a half drop repeat with a horizontal mirror arrangement. This is a design for a wallpaper and textile which shows how a design could be used in the same room so that the curtains matched the wall-covering. Designers like William Morris, Walter Crane and the young Voysey were working at the forefront of design in the late 1880s and the 1890s. They considered flat stylised pattern, of the kind demonstrated in this design, more suitable for decorating walls. This was because they thought that figurative subjects, or those which imitated reality by using perspective and shading, were creating a false impression on a flat surface. The majority of consumers, however, favoured existing styles which were also for sale at this period. They were not enthusiastic about this new type of flat pattern.
Only the central pattern unit is coloured in watercolour which is enough to indicate the colours in each repeat. The rest of the pattern is in pencil or black chalk and in some areas the repeat is merely indicated by spaces. The design does not need to be finished because the pattern repeats can be understood from the uncoloured drawing and even from the exact spaces. This is a working design for Essex & Co., the wallpaper manufacturers. Voysey includes the instruction to ‘underprint’ ‘green & yellow’. This instruction is included amongst other colour notes in the border beneath the design.
Voysey was born near Hull, England and later moved to London. He was articled (bound as an apprentice) to J.P. Seddon, the architect, in 1874. Voysey set up as an independent architect in about 1882. He became friends with the architect, designer and social reformer, A. H. Mackmurdo. The wallpaper manufacturers, Jeffrey & Co., commissioned him to design wallpaper from 1883 onwards. Voysey joined the newly established Art-Workers’ Guild in 1884. Four years later he displayed wallpapers and printed textiles at the first exhibition of the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society. Voysey designed wallpapers under contract for Essex & Co from 1893. They advertised ‘many papers by C.F.A. Voysey, the Genius of Pattern’ in the 1920s.
This image can be found in Print Room Box 7.