Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Gifts of Grandeur: The Pearwood Mirror Back, 1901

Carved Mirror Back of Pearwood
Francis George Wood, 1901
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Mmmm...pearwood.  Speaking of delicious things, we'll be talking a look at this week's "Treat of the Week" tomorrow.  Until then, we'll be looking at lovely Art Nouveau objects like this Pearwood Mirror.

Usually, hand-held mirrors such as this were made as part of a lady’s dressing table set. This one, however, stands alone. It was made as a competition entry for National Competition of Art & Design, held by the Government School of Design in London in 1901. The maker of this decorative back for a mirror won the top honors at the competition. His name was Francis George Wood.

Wood attended the Salford School of Art--one of a network of local art schools that had been established in Britain from the 1850s onwards. Such schools provided training for artists and designers with the intention of finding them employment in manufacturing. The hope was to improve the overall quality and artistry of Britain’s manufactured goods. The idea became quite popular following the Great Exhibition of 1851 when all of Britain’s wares were on display for the world to see. That triumph, spurred by Prince Albert, set the standard for the quality of British manufacture, and it was a standard which trained artists such as Wood hoped to surpass. 

Wood’s work is exquisite. He relies on fashionable themes of the early Twentieth Century, but approaches them with a new energy. Daffodils were a popular decorative motif at this time and Wood plays with the shape of the flowers, creating an ornament of intertwining stems and leaves which shows the influence of the Arts and Crafts designer Walter Crane (1845-1915), as well as continental Art Nouveau. Wood’s triumph with this design brought him to national attention.

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