Saturday, May 3, 2008

William Morris' Daisy Wallpaper

Morris designed both Daisy and Trellis in the early 1860s while he and his family were living at Red House, thought the designs were not officially registered until February 1864. Morris and Company was in its very early stages at that time and so the wallpaper blocks were manufactured for Morris by Jeffrey & Company of Islington, London. The design is made up of four clumps of flowers that are arranged on horizontal lines.

The design for Daisy was inspired either by a daisy wallhanging Jane Morris embroidered, or by an illumination in a medieval manuscript (Froissart's Chronicles)--no-one is absolutely sure.

Whatever the inspiration for the design, it is clear that Morris was influenced by medieval artwork. "Daisy" utilizes some of the medieval design elements discussed by
In "Of Medieval Landscapes" John Ruskin observed that medieval art paid attention to "what was graceful, symmetrical, and bright in colour," and that artists in the Middle Ages tended to reduce the complexity of floral elements to "disciplined and orderly patterns." Daisy demonstrates adhereance to this and other medieval design principles, including the "law of growth" (by showing the buds developing on the plants) and "the law of proportion," which can be seen in the symmetry of the plants (for example, each plant has three flowers and an equal number of leaves).

Personally, I'm not sure what I think about all this symmetry! I love the elements in both "Daisy" and "Trellis," but when they're on a wall it can be a bit overwhelming. I think it's interesting to note that while Morris designed many wallpapers, he used them somewhat sparingly in his own home.

Sources consulted: William Morris Gallery and Writing on the Image: Reading William Morris
Daisy Wallpaper courtesy wikimedia commons

1 comment:

Rowan said...

I love this design but would prefer it as fabric for curtains or cushions rather than as a whole wall - I agree that it would be rather overwhelming.