In 2014 the Museum acquired a series of six original designs for nursery friezes entitled Children’s Toys by the artist, designer and illustrator John Hassall. Dating from around 1900, the works were commissioned for reproduction by Liberty’s and were printed as lithographs to be fixed directly to the walls of children’s rooms.

Hassall was among the most influential British poster artists of the early 20th century. He was a regular contributor to periodicals including the Illustrated London News, The Sketch and Pick-Me-Up, and is perhaps best known for the poster “Skegness is SO bracing”, produced for the Great Northern Railway Company in 1908. The design was imitated by other poster designers and became one of the most famous railway posters in Britain.

The six designs formed part of a collaboration between Hassall and the artist and illustrator Cecil Aldin called Art for the Nursery, which aimed to make the appearance of children’s rooms more attractive. Nursery friezes became an important part of nursery design from the late 19th century, being seen as decorative and economical, and Hassall and Aldin were early and influential leaders in the field. Their work was shown in the exhibition Pictures for Children at the Fine Art Society in 1900, with Aldin quoted in Women’s Life magazine as saying, “… So very little trouble is nowadays taken by the majority of people regarding the fitting up of the children’s part of the house… Parents seem to think that children do not derive any pleasure or benefit from any efforts they may make towards decorating the nursery. I believe just the opposite…”

The purchase was assisted by a grant from The Art Fund