Wallpaper by Edward Bawden
Mermaids, Roses, Camels & Cows:
Wallpaper by Edward Bawden
Saturday 8th November 2014 – Sunday 29th March
Mermaids, Roses, Camels and Cows: Wallpaper by Edward
Bawden showcases the ‘enchantingly personal and
offbeat’ wallpaper designs produced by Bawden throughout his
career. Many of the designs are still in demand today.
Cow, 1927 is the earliest of Bawden’s experiments in
wallpaper production and one of his first attempts at lino cutting.
Still a young student, he worked on the design in his London
bedsit, stamping each cow onto the paper with his foot. Harold
Curwen at the Curwen Press turned the design into a lithograph and
began small commercial production of the work at a time when
wallpaper was firmly out of fashion.
The early works produced by Curwen included many unusual motifs.
Sahara, 1928 featured camels and sand dunes and was produced for an
Egyptologist at the British Museum. Mermaid, 1928 features a
mermaid swimming amongst columns of stylised seaweed and a whale.
More unusual still, the papers were not supplied on rolls, but in
sheets that varied in size according to the dimensions of the
design. It would have been a daunting prospect for even the most
ambitious decorator; however, Bawden himself rose to the challenge.
These unusual motifs lined almost every room in his home; Peggy
Angus recalled being ‘bowled over by the flowering of
inventiveness in decorations on every wall, ceiling or
The papers were sold almost exclusively through Elsbeth Little’s
shop Modern Textiles, in Beauchamp Place. They never broke onto the
mass market and remained in the words of one critic a
In the late 1930’s Edward Bawden alongside his friend, and
neighbour, John Aldridge produced a series called The Bardfield
Wallpapers which were exhibited at Muriel Rose's Little Gallery.
Taken up by Coles, the works were to become more commercially
then those produced previously. However, war broke out just as the
designs were ready for production so it was not until 1946 that the
designs started to be manufactured. Each design was offered in
several colours and customers were able to specify others due to
the flexibility of hand printing. The artists received only meagre
earnings from the enterprise but the papers were critically well
received with Periwinkle being used in the 1951 Festival of
Britain. Cole & Sons continue to produce the wallpaper to order
In the 1950s Bawden, alongside Kenneth Rowntree and Walter
Hoyle, participated in an exhibition organised by Sanderson. The
abstract design was produced as a wallpaper and as a textile
design. It was the last wallpaper design Bawden was to produce.
This exquisite exhibition will be accompanied by From
Rolls-Royce to Printing Press, a lunchtime talk given by
the curator; the perfect introduction to the exhibition,
Thursday 27th November 2014, 1pm – 1.30pm.