Celtic No. 2
Designer: Owen Jones, 1809-1874
Lithographer: Francis Bedford, 1816-1894
Manufacturer: Jackson & GrahamThe Grammar of Ornament
See commentary below.
The New York Public Library; Digital ID: 1540584
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Commentary by Alice H. R. H. Beckwith
Owen Jones's interest and success in encouraging polychromatic architectural ornament led him to publish this design source book for the use of his fellow architects. The Grammar of Ornament is one of the most remarkable books ever published, a tour de force of chromolithography of profound and enduring design significance. It was reprinted in a reduced version with twelve additional plates in 1865, 1910, 1928, and 1972. The present folio has one hundred plates drawn on the stone by Francis Bedford, assisted by W. R. Tymms (cat. 49), A. Warren (cat. 64), H. Fielding, and S. Sedgfield.
In an essay titled "Decoration of Interiors," reprinted in the Philadelphia periodical Graham's Magazine in 1854, Jones called for the use of color in architecture and complained that England lagged behind Germany and France by retaining a "Puritan" liking for white walls (Jones, 68). This essay, published two years before The Grammar encapsulated some of the arguments presented in the book. Both texts reveal his interest in the color theory of George Field and Michel Eugène Chevreul, as do his essays in The Journal of Design in the early 1850s, and his designs for the interior of the Crystal Palace exhibition hall in 1851.
Jones differed from the two other major architectural theorists of the early Victorian period, John Ruskin and Augustus W. N. Pugin, in his easy acceptance of the industrial age, and in his presentation of principles of design without reference to a symbolic or ethical context. The influence of The Grammar as a systematic overview of the arts of design from many different Eastern as well as Western cultures continues to the present day. In the nineteenth and early twentiethth centuries The Grammar touched such diverse spheres as the stenciled patterns by the Rhode Island interior design firm of Cattanach and Cliff on the library walls at the Governor Henry Lippitt House, Providence, the Egyptian patterns on nineteenth-century flatware from Gorham Silver Company, and even the design of the package for Lorillard's Murad Cigarettes (Mullen, 15).
Although Jones was the general editor and major author of The Grammar, he included essays and illustrations by Matthew Digby Wyatt (cat. 49), J. B. Waring, Christopher Dresser, and John O. Westwood. The second of Westwood's three plates on Celtic ornament is illustrated here. The discussion focused on proving the development of Hiberno-Saxon ornamental patterns independent of the influence of Scandinavian designs. As in his other writings, Westwood concerned himself with establishing proof of the existence of an early school of Christian artists in the British Isles (cat. 15), though this desire for cultural preeminence was not typical of Jones's work. Westwood's Celtic page consists of forty-five fragments of interlaced ornament from almost that many different illuminated manuscripts. Jones also used illuminated manuscripts for his illustrative examples, particularly in his section on medieval ornament. However, the strongest evidence of Jones's involvement with plate 64 is the balanced and coloristically unified arrangement of the fragments of borders, parts of initial letters, and line endings. Such complexity is characteristic of all 100 plates in The Grammar of Ornament.
Beckwith, Alice H. R. H. Victorian Bibliomania: The Illuminated Book in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Exhibition catalogue. Providence. Rhode Island: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1987.Jones, Owen. The Grammar of Ornament Illustrated by examples from various styles of ornament. London, Day and son, limited .
Mullen, Chris. Cigarette Art. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979.
Last modified 22 December 2013