Sunday, 4 March 2012

A 'diverting history'

We've recently been looking again at some of the wallpapers in our collections that were based on children's book illustrations. And we've been looking at some of the many books in our collections which contain brilliant illustrations - it's really interesting to see the common threads between book illustrations and wallpapers, both in terms of style and in terms of technique and production. We think that more students studying things like graphics and illustration would use our collections, if only they knew what we've got. So, we're embarking on a project to make some of this into an online exhibition (once our new website is finally launched!) If you, or anyone else you know would be interested in applying, please email Zoe Hendon for more details. (NB closing date 1st April 2012).

More posts on this theme will follow over the next few weeks, but we thought we would start with a wallpaper based on John Cowper's poem The Diverting History of John Gilpin, first published in 1782. It was featured on the recent edition of Radio 4's Poetry Please programme, or you can hear it on Youtube.

The poem (said to be based on a real-life incident), tells the story of a wealthy London draper, who borrows a horse from a friend. He plans to ride from London to 'The Bell', at Edmonton, to celebrate his wedding anniversary - but the horse has other ideas!

Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (SW1375)

The wallpaper dates from around 1910, and shows different scenes from the poem, with horses galloping in all directions: it would have been an exciting decoration for a child's bedroom. The poem was first published in the Public Advertiser on 14th November 1782 and became famous within a few years. The poem's popularity was increased by the quality of the illustrations which accompanied the text. George Cruikshank, "Phiz" Hablot Brown and Randolph Caldecott all illustrated various versions of the poem. The designer of this wallpaper was probably influenced by some of these earlier illustrations. I really like the poem, and I think the wallpaper gives a good sense of the frantic gallop and all the chaos that ensues.

Look out for more posts on a similar theme, coming soon...

1 comment:

  1. I'll definitely spread the word about this exciting opportunity: wish I were a student myself!