Design for Honeysuckle wallpaper by May Morris, 1881

Single repeat design for a wallpaper in pencil and watercolour depicting loosely intertwining branches of honeysuckle in flower, on a plain background. May Morris designed three wallpapers, each with a principal floral motif and reflecting Christopher Dresser’s advice that when designing for a flat surface ‘natural flowers are never used imitatively or perspectively, but are conventionalised by being displayed flat…’ (Principles of Decorative Design, 1873). Pencil annotations on the design for ‘Honeysuckle’ tell us that eight blocks were required to print one complete repeat. ‘Honeysuckle’, along with May’s other two designs (‘Horn Poppy’, 1885, and ‘Arcadia’, 1886) proved popular with Morris & Co.’s clientele, but in 1885 May was appointed director of the Firm’s embroidery department and it was designs for embroidery that then became her creative focus. See 'May Morris: Arts & Crafts Designer' by Anna Mason et al (London: Thames & Hudson, V&A, William Morris Gallery 2017) and 'Principles of Decorative Design' by Christopher Dresser (London: Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co. 1873).

Record ID:D7
Measurement:99.6 x 68.6 cm
Inscription:Front: Machine (del) Wallpaper 8 blocks No. 6575 Honeysuckle (all pen) 21" (list of blocks and colours) [all pen] Back: Honeysuckle Paper [last only in pen] 34 Merton Abbey [both st] Mr. Morris Esq. [pen]
Classification:Original designs
Artist:Morris, May
Medium:Pencil and watercolour on paper
References:Illustrated in B. Morris, Morris & Co, 1861-1940 Centenary Exhibition Catalogue, 1961, p.49, pl.5; Watkinson, 1967, pl. 13, and is also illustrated in Woman's world, 1890, p122, where the design is attributed to William Morris. See also 'May Morris: Arts & Crafts Designer' by Anna Mason et al (London: Thames & Hudson, V&A, William Morris Gallery 2017) and 'Principles of Decorative Design' by Christopher Dresser (London: Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co. 1873). See also wallpaper sample in the collection WMS/WP/4/10.