Craft Wallpapers

The craft wallpapers made by Peggy Angus and Edward Bawden in the collection at MoDA are lively and individualistic. Angus’s patterned wallpapers built upon and reflect her output in other areas of art and craft, whilst the feel of illustration in Bawden’s wallpapers is wholly in keeping with his work as an artist and illustrator. Jane Audas delves into MoDA's collections...


At the start of the nineteenth century wallpaper had been a hand-printed product for centuries. But as industrial textile printing machines were adapted to print paper in the 1840s, the mechanization of wallpaper manufacture and consequent drop in price left hand-printed wallpapers behind. Hand-printed papers became expensive luxuries, but they survived because there were customers who valued a hand-made, more expensive product for different aesthetic and cultural reasons.

Wallpapers represent a grand gesture of pattern, bigger than almost anything else a maker will produce. Designing one requires a scaling-up and confidence of execution, as well as a sympathetic eye for repeat pattern and colours that people can live with, but that also deliver a design clearly enough.

Peggy Angus and Edward Bawden excelled at wallpaper design, for slightly different reasons. Angus was a master of repeat pattern: her vivacious linocut designs lend her papers an informality and handmade roughness that was cleverly delivered in bright but sympathetic colour combinations. Bawden designed wallpapers that balanced areas of pattern and plain in a masterly way, but are more delicate in design and colourways than Angus’s. Yet in their own quieter way his wallpapers are just as bold on the wall.

Jane Audas is a freelance digital producer, writer and curator.