The father of modernism, Now, on the 180th anniversary of the
The whimsical style of Dresser, most memorable in the anthropomorphic qualities he gave everything from silver milk jugs to iron chairs in the late 1800s, epitomised the technique of the man who was a household name in his heyday. His hand touched everything from wallpaper and textiles to ceramics, glass, furniture and metalware.
A precursor to Liberty of London and a prototype of designer and retailer
"He was a pioneer of the aesthetic movement and the artistic advisor and designer for a lot of companies that survived well into the 20th century. By the height of his career in the 1880s he was employing 10 other people in his workshop but he didn't make himself a limited company, so when he dies in 1904 it all went and there's a theory that is probably why he was forgotten about in the early 20th century," explains Brown.
"He set up his own business,
"Such was his passion for Japanese art and design that he was invited by the Japanese government in 1876 to visit for three months," says Brown. "He had made enough contacts there for the Japanese to recognise what he could also probably provide for them; he was consulting for them on their own production, as well as going out there with a collection of work from the British art industries.
"While he was in
The Japanese influence on Dresser's work can clearly be seen in a copper kettle on show at Kelvingrove. The bar across the top is a nod to shapes he would have seen in Shinto temples and the strength of the design is in its simplicity, unlike the excessively ornamented homeware for sale at the time.
"He did make a remark in a lecture that in
Much could be learned in later years from the iron chair Dresser designed for the Coalbrookdale Ironworks company, a lesson in flat- pack furniture Ikea would be proud of that is also on display at Kelvingrove. Simply made in four sections, there is the back piece, the two legs and the bolted stretcher. This is what makes Dresser such a good industrial designer, according to Brown: he simplifies the principles of design, fitness for purpose and purity of form, which makes it easy to manufacture.
"This is a beautiful, simplistic design. Dresser worked with
Dresser supplied the Japanese displays at the 1873 London Exhibition and in the same year founded the
At Kelvingrove there are pieces of Dresser-designed
A milk jug designed by Dresser and made by Elkington & Co,
Dresser was working 20 years or so before Mackintosh but one could have had an effect on the other. Brown explains how Dresser came back to
"It is nice to think the young
Tirelessly travelling around the world lecturing, setting up businesses and advising companies, Dresser was maybe born a few decades too early for the world to keep up with his prolific output but his work will never be forgotten.
"Within the art world he was held in incredible esteem, he was revered among his peers and it was said he was the most perfect art intellect to come out of
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The father of modernism,
Now, on the 180th anniversary of the