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Thursday 09 December 2021


­This attractive small book, printed on creamy paper, is part of the V&A’s ‘Artists in Focus’ gift range (other titles in the DAS period of interest are William Morris’s Flowers and Voysey’s Birds and Animals). Anyone lucky enough to be given it will get an extremely good, compact account of the life and work of this remarkable designer.

Max Donnelly’s introduction gives a brief but thorough account of a brilliant man: his education in the thick of efforts to improve British commercial design, his intensive study of botany, his energetic and formative travels in Meiji Japan, his entrepreneurial enterprises, his educational writings, etc. In contrast to his contemporary William Morris, Dresser embraced science and the possibilities of machinery, and effectively ran a design studio supplying designs to multiple manufacturers across the whole range of the applied arts. ­These radical designs included his astonishingly modern-looking geometrically simplified metalwork (one of his iconic teapots was naturally selected for the cover) and his abstractly fluid freeblown glassware.

­The introduction is followed by 82 plates of representative items drawn predominantly from the V&A’s outstanding collections. Th­e extended captions make illuminating use of quotations from Dresser’s prolific writings expounding the principles exemplified in his designs.

Christopher Dresser: Design Pioneer

Max Donnelly, Th­ames & Hudson in association with the V&A, £16.99 hb; (Visit the website and use the code DRESSER20 for a 20% discount)

Condensed from a review by Perilla Kinchin in DAS Newsletter No. 123