Christopher Dresser (British, Glasgow, Scotland 1834–1904 Mulhouse)
J.W. and C. Ward , Halifax
L. 23 1/4 x W. 51 inches (59.1 x 129.5 cm) (loom width)
Gift of Paul Walter, 1984
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 556
The repeating pattern of stylized flowers arranged in a fan shape within an arch in red and gold on a shaded green ground reflects Christopher Dresser's interest in Japanese textiles, while it also fulfills his requirements for good textile design. Dresser argued that textiles, unlike pictorial art, were only suited for flat, ornamental design. As he elaborates in Principles of Decorative Design (1873), "The ornamentist when enriching a fabric deals only with a surface, and has no thought of placing pictures thereon; he has simply to enrich or beautify that which without his art would be plain and unornamental."
This pattern was shown at the 1871 International Exhibition in London, and illustrated in the accompanying Art-Journal Catalogue, where it was advertised as "Very beautiful and not extremely costly fabrics for upholstering purposes, manufactured by Messrs. J. W. and C. Ward of Halifax, from the designs by Dr. Cornelius [sic] Dresser, who has done much excellent work not only in Art-decoration but also in the inculcation of the principles on which it rests."
Many of the firms who produced Dresser's textile and carpet designs believed in his abilities as a designer. All in the Halifax region, a fair number of them, including John Lewis, John Whitely Ward, John Crossley and his brother, and John Lister, also commissioned Dresser to design the interiors of their homes. Unfortunately, only two commissions survive: Allangate Mansion, circa 1870 for Thomas Shaw, MP, and Bushloe House for Hiram B. Owston, Dresser's lawyer, built sometime between 1866 and 1880, survive. Both houses are in very poor condition and leave only clues to the total composition of Dresser's interiors.