This week’s gem from the Stoddard – Templeton Design Archive is a design by Arthur Silver from the late 19th century.
Arthur Silver is one of the most important designers in British design history. Born in 1853, he spent the 1870s as an apprentice to H. W. Batley, whose designs also feature in the Stoddard – Templeton Design Archive (click here to read a previous post about H.W Batley). In 1880 he founded the Silver Studio, producing countless patterns for wallpaper, textiles and floorcoverings, as well as beautiful metalwork and plasterwork. Arthur Silver died in 1896 but in 1901 his son Rex took over and the Silver Studio continued to flourish, becoming highly influential in the decorative and domestic arts, and producing some of the most famous patterns for companies such as Liberty and Co. and Sanderson, until 1963.
The Silver Studio is probably most well known for its striking and distinctive Art Nouveau style, but in fact produced work in a wide range of styles over the years. Some very important designers worked for the studio, amongst them John Illingworth Kay, Harry Napper, Walter Crane, Christopher Dresser and CFA Voysey.
Unfortunately the design is in poor condition. Creased and torn, and at some point badly repaired, the tissue paper is now in a very fragile state. Nevertheless, that we have a design by Arthur Silver in the collection is very important. While there are around 40 other designs in the collection attributed to the Silver Studio, this is the only one to bear a stamp to prove its origins. The fact the stamp reads “A. Silver, Designer… ” rather than “Silver Studio” perhaps indicates that this design pre-dates the foundation of the Silver Studio in 1880, but of this we are not certain. It’s certainly an excellent example, showing some of the hallmarks of the studio’s characteristic, now known as Art Nouveau, style: the flat, decorative treatment of flowers, especially large ones, and the bold scrolling leaves, in particular. It is also interesting, in my opinion, to see the design in only a partially coloured state.
The Silver Studio is known to have had a good relationship with Glasgow firms, including Wylie & Lochhead, and with James Templeton & Co. Ltd in particular, who bought some of their most striking and daringly modern patterns. Juliet Kinchin and Elizabeth Arthur note in the Art Nouveau Designs from The Silver Studio Collection that Templetons:
Bought some of the most avant-garde and splendid of the studio’s work. Alexander Millar, who was managing director of Templetons, lost no opportunity to praise Arthur Silver’s carpet designs and sensitive use of colour. It was a particularly good instance of a very happy relationship between manufacturer and designer.
Categories: Archive Services (GUAS)