In 1898, the artists periodical The Studio called Christopher Dresser “perhaps the greatest of commercial designers imposing his fantasy and invention upon the ordinary output of British industry.” This seems an appropriate description for an Englishman who was interested in art but first trained in botany, and then found inspiration for his designs both in the ancient past and traditions of Japan.
Looking at two of Dresser’s designs in the collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum–a pitcher produced by the Watcombe Terracotta Clay Company and a claret jug produced by Hulkin & Heath–you can see how he applied his own personal motto to his work: truth, beauty, power. The sleek and angular vessels lack the decoration that most people associate with the Victorian period, which would have been at its height in the 1870’s. They look like something from the 20th century!
It may surprise you then, that Dresser was also known for his interests in flat patterning.