Christopher Dresser’s Studies in Design

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The previous post about Christopher Dresser’s design studies proved popular so here’s another discovery from the same source. A surprise this time was seeing the middle motif on the page above; I have this separated from its neighbours in a collection of Art Nouveau graphics, and used it on the slipcase of a Cradle of Filth CD in 2002. Studies in Design (1876) is a collection of colour plates of Dresser’s design work. Some of these emulate medieval or Arabian/Persian decoration but the most interesting examples for me are Dresser’s more personal pieces. Once you’ve seen a few of these his style is easy to recognise. Thanks to some searching by Mr TjZ I now know that a number of collections of Dresser’s designs are available from (who else?) Dover Publications. More for the shopping list.

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Christopher Dresser’s Art of Decorative Design

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Studies of decorative design are numerous but this one stands out for the quality of its colour plates, all of which show a variety of designs derived from plants and flowers. The Art of Decorative Design (1862) is one of a number of design books published in the wake of the Great Exhibition of 1851, the most celebrated being Owen Jones’ lavish Grammar of Ornament. Christopher Dresser was a¬†professor of ornamental art and botany who here continues where The Grammar of Ornament ends, exploring the floral design that’s a recurrent feature of Victorian decoration. What’s most remarkable for me about some of these designs is the way they prefigure the forms of Art Nouveau, a style that wouldn’t emerge for another thirty years.

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