Monday, 1 November 2010

C F A Voysey and Repeat Pattern

Illustration: Charles Francis Annesley Voysey. Union of Hearts wallpaper design, 1898.

The English architect and designer Charles Francis Annesley Voysey produced work in a fairly extensive range of subjects and mediums from printed textiles to carpet weaving. One of the most consistent was that of wallpaper design. He produced pattern work intermittently for over half a century from the 1880s to the 1930s. To a large extent Voysey's work tended towards the personal and while he was obviously influenced to some extent by the major design and decorative movements of the period, there is a large element of the individual in the approach to his work.

Illustration: Charles Francis Annesley Voysey. Wallpaper design.

The five wallpaper designs illustrated in this article, while not necessarily typical of Voysey's style per se, do give an interesting insight into the pattern phenomenon of the repeat, and in these cases in particular that of a fairly tight repetitive quality using often either one motif or at most a combination of two.

The idea of a limited and regularly repeated motif pattern can seem like an extremely dull, unimaginative, even machine-like proposition. However, depending on a number of aspects that can be used by a surface pattern designer which can include a form of visual harmony, a defined use of colour and a sizeable element of wit, pattern work using a minimal vocabulary can appear to be as visually stunning if not more so, than a much more complex and sophisticated composition.

Illustration: Charles Francis Annesley Voysey. Flaming Heart wallpaper design.

Voysey has used a number of elements to tie his decorative motifs into a harmonious and wide-ranging piece of pattern work that also manages to deny the concept of boredom. The techniques used can range from the idea of tying motifs together, almost literally as in the case of The Union of the Hearts wallpaper design from 1898, to that of Flaming Heart which relies on the flame itself to link the hearts together in an unbroken pattern that covers the wallpaper composition.

Probably the more interesting concept is the idea of using singular motifs while trying to avoid an element of monotony marching across a wallpapered room. Good examples of this are the two bird inspired wallpaper designs, one from 1895 the other from 1896. Voysey was particularly attracted to the usage of birdlife in both textile and wallpaper design and he used bird motifs, both singular and in more complicated pattern work, throughout his career. From the early design work of the late 1880s and early 1890s, to wallpaper pattern work that he produced in the 1930s, Voysey consistently used graphically flat, even stencil-like images of bird motifs that were sometimes a major factor of a composition, though often less so. However, they appeared so frequently that they have become a moniker of Voysey and of his own particularly individual style.

Illustration: Charles Francis Annesley Voysey. Wallpaper design, 1895.

The two wallpaper examples of bird motifs shown here contain probably the simplest, yet most effective motif design work. Although the 1895 example does use more than one style of bird and is therefore not strictly a one motif pattern, because of the use of the limited colour palette in both motif and background, it does give the impression of simplicity through constant, yet un-tiring repetition and therefore at a glance does give the impression of a one motif composition. The 1896 wallpaper design is even starker and although only a drawn and therefore uncoloured example, it does show how the simplicity of a regular repetitive motif pattern can still give the appearance of a sophisticated piece of composition.

Obviously all wallpaper pattern work by its very nature and its practical necessity, is on some level at least, repetitive. However, how that repetition is approached and how it is treated by an individual designer can make all the difference. If it is between a dull and uninteresting piece that gives all the appearance of a soulless mass produced object, or that of a witty and humanly inspired composition, is up to both the creative integrity of the designer and the level to which they understand the rich vocabulary that is such a large part of skill that is surface pattern design.

Illustration: Charles Francis Annesley Voysey. Wallpaper design, 1896.

Reference links:
Voysey, C.F.A
C. F. Voysey Arts and Crafts Bookplates Packet of 24
Decorative Designs of C F A Voysey
C.F.A. Voysey: An Architect of Individuality
C. F. A. Voysey Deluxe Address Book
C.F.A.Voysey: Architect and Designer, 1857-1941
Voysey Bookplates
Charles F A Voysey (Architectural Monographs No 2)
Charles F. A. Voysey, Architect
Charles Voysey (Architect)
C.F.A. Voysey (Architectural Monographs No 19)
C.F.A. Voysey,: A memoir

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