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Much might be said of different methods and materials of work in
decorative painting, but I have hardly space here. The decorative
painter prefers a certain flatness of effect, and therefore such methods
as fresco, in which the colours are laid on while the plaster ground is
wet, and tempera naturally appeal to him. In the latter the colours
ground in water and used with size, or white and yolk of egg, or
prepared with starch, worked on a dry ground, drying lighter than when
they are put on, have a peculiar luminous quality, while the surface is
free from any gloss. Both these methods need direct painting and
finishing as the work proceeds.

By a method of working in ordinary oil colours on a ground of fibrous
plaster, using rectified spirit of turpentine or benzine as a medium,
much of the quality of fresco or tempera may be obtained, with the
advantage that the plaster ground may be a movable panel.

There are, however, other fields for the decorative painter than wall
painting; as, for instance, domestic furniture, which may vary in degree
of elaboration from the highly ornate cassone or marriage coffer of
Mediæval Italy to the wreaths and sprays which decked chairs and
bed-posts even within our century. There has been of late some revival
of painting as applied chiefly to the panels of cabinets, or the
decoration of piano fronts and cases.

The same causes produce the same results. With the search after, and
desire for, beauty in life, we are again driven to study the laws of
beauty in design and painting; and in so doing painters will find again
the lost thread, the golden link of connection and intimate association
with the sister arts and handicrafts, whereof none is before or after
another, none is greater or less than the other.



While the tradition and practice of mural painting as applied to
interior walls and ceilings of houses still linger in Italy, in the form
of often skilful if not always tasteful tempera work, in more western
countries, like England, France, and America, under the economic
conditions and customs of commercial civilisation, with its smoky
cities, and its houses built by the hundred to one pattern, perhaps, and
let on short terms, as regards domestic decoration - except in the case
of a few wealthy freeholders - mural painting has ceased to exist. Its
place has been taken by what after all is but a substitute for it,
namely, wall paper.

I am not aware that any specimen of wall paper has been discovered that
has claims to any higher antiquity than the sixteenth century, and it
only came much into use in the last, increasing in the present, until it
has become well-nigh a universal covering for domestic walls, and at the
same time has shown a remarkable development in design, varying from
very unpretending patterns and printings in one colour to elaborate
block-printed designs in many colours, besides cheap machine-printed
papers, where all the tints are printed from the design on a roller at

Since Mr. William Morris has shown what beauty and character in pattern,
and good and delicate choice of tint can do for us, giving in short a
new impulse in design, a great amount of ingenuity and enterprise has
been spent on wall papers in England, and in the better kinds a very
distinct advance has been made upon the patterns of inconceivable
hideousness, often of French origin, of the period of the Second
Empire - a period which perhaps represents the most degraded level of
taste in decoration generally.

The designer of patterns for wall papers heretofore has been content to
imitate other materials, and adapt the characteristics of the patterns
found, say, in silk damask hangings or tapestry, or even imitate the
veining of wood, or marble, or tiles; but since the revival of interest
in art, the study of its history, and knowledge of style, a new impulse
has been given, and patterns are constructed with more direct reference
to their beauty, and interest as such, while strictly adapted to the
methods of manufacture. Great pains are often taken by our principal
makers to secure good designs and harmonious colourings, and though a
manufacturer and director of works is always more or less controlled by
the exigencies of the market and the demands of the tentative
salesman - considerations which have no natural connection with art,
though highly important as economic conditions affecting its
welfare - very remarkable results have been produced, and a special
development of applied design may almost be said to have come into
existence with the modern use of wall papers. The manufacture suffers
like most others from the keenness and unscrupulousness of commercial
competition, which leads to the production of specious imitations of
_bonâ fide_ designs, and unauthorised use of designs originally intended
for other purposes, and this of course presses unfairly upon the more
conscientious maker, so long as the public do not decline to be

English wall papers are made in lengths 21 inches wide. French wall
papers are 18 inches wide. This has probably been found most convenient
in working in block-printing: it is obvious to any one who has seen the
printers at work that a wider block than 21 inches would be unwieldy,
since the block is printed by hand, being suspended from above by a
cord, and guided by the workman's hand from the well of colour, into
which it is dipped, to the paper flat on a table before him.

The designer must work to the given width, and though his design may
vary in depth, must never exceed 21 inches square, except where double
blocks are used. His main business is to devise his pattern so that it
will repeat satisfactorily over an indefinite wall space without running
into awkward holes or lines. It may be easy enough to draw a spray or
two of leaves or flowers which will stand by themselves, but to combine
them in an organic pattern which shall repeat pleasantly over a wall
surface requires much ingenuity and a knowledge of the conditions of the
manufacture, apart from play of fancy and artistic skill.

One way of concealing the joints of the repeat of the pattern is by
contriving what is called a drop-repeat, so that, in hanging, the
paper-hanger, instead of placing each repeat of pattern side by side, is
enabled to join the pattern at a point its own depth below, which varies
the effect, and arranges the chief features or masses on an alternating

The modern habit of regarding the walls of a room chiefly as a
background to pictures, furniture, or people, and perhaps the smallness
of the average room, has brought rather small, thickly dispersed, leafy
patterns into vogue, retiring in colour for the most part. While,
however, we used to see rotund and accidental bunches of roses (the
pictorial or sketchy treatment of which contrasted awkwardly with their
formal repetition), we now get a certain sense of adaptation, and the
necessity of a certain flatness of treatment; and most of us who have
given much thought to the subject feel that when natural forms are dealt
with, under such conditions, suggestion is better than any attempt at
realisation, or naturalistic or pictorial treatment, and that a design
must be constructed upon some systematic plan, if not absolutely
controlled by a geometric basis.

Wall papers are printed from blocks prepared from designs, the outlines
of which are reproduced by means of flat brass wire driven edgeways into
the wood block. One block for each tint is used. First one colour is
printed on a length of paper, a piece of 12 yards long and 21 inches
wide, which is passed over sticks suspended across the workshop. When
the first colour is dry the next is printed, and so on; the colours
being mixed with size and put in shallow trays or wells, into which the
blocks are dipped.

A cheaper kind is printed by steam power from rollers on which the
design has been reproduced in the same way by brass wire, which holds
the colour; but in the case of machine-printed papers all the tints are
printed at once. Thus the pattern is often imperfect and blurred.

A more elaborate and costly kind of wall paper is that which is stamped
and gilded, in emulation of stamped and gilded leather, which it
resembles in effect and quality of surface. For this method the design
is reproduced in relief as a _repoussée_ brass plate, and from this a
mould or matrix is made, and the paper being damped is stamped in a
press into the matrix, and so takes the pattern in relief, which is
generally covered with white metal and lacquered to a gold hue, and this
again may be rubbed in with black, which by filling the interstices
gives emphasis to the design and darkens the gold to bronze; or the
gilded surface may be treated in any variety of colour by means of
painting or lacquer, or simply relieved by colouring the ground.

But few of us own our own walls, or the ground they stand upon: but few
of us can afford to employ ourselves or skilled artists and craftsmen
in painting our rooms with beautiful fancies: but if we can get
well-designed repeating patterns by the yard, in agreeable tints, with a
pleasant flavour perchance of nature or antiquity, for a few shillings
or pounds, ought we not to be happy? At all events, wall-paper makers
should naturally think so.



Earliest amongst the inventions of man and his endeavour to unite Art
with Craft is the Fictile Art. His first needs in domestic life, his
first utensils, his first efforts at civilisation, came from the Mother
Earth, whose son he believed himself to be, and his ashes or his bones
returned to Earth enshrined in the fictile vases he created from their
common clay. And these Fictiles tell the story of his first
Art-instincts, and of his yearnings to unite beauty with use. They tell,
too, more of his history than is enshrined and preserved by any other
art; for almost all we know of many a people and many a tongue is
learned from the fictile record, the sole relic of past civilisations
which the Destroyer Time has left us.

Begun in the simplest fashion, fashioned by the simplest means, created
from the commonest materials, Fictile Art grew with man's intellectual
growth, and Fictile Craft grew with his knowledge; the latter
conquering, in this our day, when the craftsman strangles the artist
alike in this as in all other arts. To truly foster and forward the art,
the craftsman and the artist should, where possible, be united, or at
least should work in common, as was the case when, in each civilisation,
the Potter's Art flourished most, and when the scientific base was of
less account than was the art employed upon it. In its earliest stages
the local clay sufficed for the formative portion of the work, and the
faiences of most European countries offer more artistic results to us
than do the more scientifically compounded porcelains. In the former
case the native clay seemed more easily to ally itself with native art,
to record more of current history, to create artistic genius rather than
to be content with attempting to copy misunderstood efforts of other
peoples and other times. But when science ransacked the earth for
foreign bodies and ingredients, foreign decorative ideas came with them
and Fictile Art was no more a vernacular one. It attempted to disguise
itself, to show the craftsman superior to the artist; and then came the
Manufacturer and the reign of quantity over quality, the casting in
moulds by the gross and the printing by the thousands. Be it understood
these remarks only apply to the introduction of porcelain into Europe.
In the East where the clay is native, the art is native; the potter's
hand and the wheel yet maintain the power of giving the potter his
individuality as the creator and the artist, and save him from being but
the servant and the slave of a machine.

Between faience and porcelain comes, midway, Stoneware, in which many
wonderfully, and some fearfully, made things have been done of late, but
which possesses the combined qualities of faience and porcelain - the
ease of manipulation of the former, and the hardness and durability of
the latter; but the tendency to over-elaborate the detail of its
decoration, and rely less on the beauty of its semi-glossy surface than
on meretricious ornament, has rather spoiled a very hopeful movement in
Ceramic Art. Probably the wisest course to pursue at the present would
be to pay more attention to faiences decorated with simple glazes or
with "slip" decoration, and this especially in modelled work. A
continuation of the artistic career of the Della Robbia family is yet an
unfulfilled desideratum, notwithstanding that glazed faiences have never
since their time ceased to be made, and that glazed figure work of large
scale prevailed in the eighteenth century. Unglazed terra cotta, an
artistic product eminently suited to our climate and to our urban
architecture, has but partially developed itself, and this more in the
direction of moulded and cast work than that of really plastic art; and
albeit that from its dawn to this present the Fictile Art has been
exercised abundantly, its rôle is by no means exhausted. The artist and
the craftsman have yet a wide field before them, but it would be well
that the former should, for some while to come, take the lead. Science
has too long reigned supreme in a domain wherein she should have been
not more than equal sovereign. She has had her triumphs, great triumphs
too, triumphs which have been fraught with good in an utilitarian sense,
but she has tyrannised too rigidly over the realm of Art. Let us now try
to equalise the dual rule.



In discussing the artistic aspect of metal work, we have to take into
account the physical properties and appropriate treatment of the
following metals: the precious metals, gold and silver; copper, both
pure and alloyed with other metals, especially tin and zinc in various
proportions to form the many kinds of brass and bronze; lead, with a
group of alloys of which pewter is typical; and iron, in the three forms
of cast iron, wrought iron, and steel. All these have been made to serve
the purpose of the artist, and the manipulation of them, while
presenting many differences in detail, presents certain broad
characteristics in common which distinguish them from the raw material
of other crafts. Whether they are found native in the metallic state as
is usual in the case of gold, or combined with many other minerals in
the form of ore as is more common with other metals, fire is the primal
agency by which they are made available for our needs. The first stage
in their manipulation is to melt and cast them into ingots of a size
convenient to the purpose intended. Secondly, all these metals when
pure, and many alloys, are in varying degree malleable and ductile, are,
in fact, if sufficient force be applied, plastic. Hence arises the first
broad division in the treatment of metals. The fluid metal may, by the
use of suitable moulds, be cast at once to the shape required, or the
casting may be treated merely as the starting-point for a whole series
of operations - forging, rolling, chipping, chasing, wire-drawing, and
many more. Another property of the metals which must be noticed is, that
not only can separate masses of metals be melted down and fused into
one, but it is possible, under various conditions, of which the one
invariably necessary is perfectly clean surfaces of contact, to unite
separate portions of the same or different metals without fusion of the
mass. For our present purpose the most important instance of this is the
process of soldering, by which two surfaces are united by the
application of sufficient heat to melt more fusible metal which is
introduced between them, and which combines with both so as firmly to
unite them on solidifying. Closely allied to this are the processes by
which one metal is, for purposes of adornment or preservation from
corrosion, coated with a thin film or deposit of another, usually more
costly, metal.

Though hereafter electro-metallurgy may assert its claim to artistic
originality as a third division, for the present all metal work, so far
as its artistic aspect depends upon process, falls naturally into one of
the two broad divisions of cast metal and wrought metal. Both have been
employed from a time long anterior to written history; ornaments of
beaten gold, and tools of cast bronze, are alike found among the relics
of very early stages of civilisation, and in early stages both alike are
artistic. The choice between the two processes is determined by such
considerations as convenience of manufacture and the physical properties
of the metals, and the different purposes in view. When a thick and
comparatively massive shape is required, it is often easier to cast it
at once. For thinner and lighter forms it is usually more convenient to
treat the ingot or crude product of the furnace as mere raw material for
a long series of workings under the hammer, or its patent mechanical
equivalents, the rolling and pressing mills of modern mechanics. The
choice is further influenced by the toughness generally characteristic
of wrought metal, whereas the alloys which yield the cleanest castings
are by no means universally the best in other respects. Iron is the
extreme instance of this: ordinary cast iron being an impure form of the
metal, which is too brittle to be worked under the hammer, but is
readily cast into moulds, being fluid at a temperature which, though
high, is easily obtained in a blast furnace. Wrought iron, however,
which is usually obtained from cast iron by a process called puddling,
whereby the impurities are burnt out, does not become fluid enough to
pour into moulds; but on the other hand, pieces at a white heat can be
united into a solid mass by skilful hammering, a process which is called
welding, and, together with the fact that from its great hardness it is
usually worked hot, is specially distinctive of the blacksmith's craft.
In no other metal is the separation between the two branches so wide as
in iron. The misdirected skill of some modern iron-founders has caused
the name of cast iron to be regarded as the very negative of art, and
has even thrown suspicion on the process of casting itself as one of
questionable honesty. Nevertheless, as a craft capable of giving final
shape to metal, it has manifestly an artistic aspect, and, in fact,
bronze statuary, a fine art pure and simple, is reproduced from the
clay model merely by moulding and casting. We must therefore look for
the artistic conditions in the preparation of the model or pattern, the
impress of which in sand or loam forms the mould; the pattern may be
carved in wood or modelled in clay, but the handling of the wood or clay
is modified by the conditions under which the form is reproduced. And
lastly, the finished object may either retain the surface formed as the
metal solidifies, as in the case of the bronzes cast by the wax process,
or the skin may be removed by the use of cutting tools, chisels and
files and gravers, so that, as in the case of many of the better French
bronzes, the finished work is strictly carved work. On the contrary,
much silversmith's work, as well as such simple objects as Chinese gongs
and Indian "lotahs," after being cast approximately to shape are
finished by hammer work, that is, treated as plastic material with tools
that force the material into shape instead of cutting the shape out of
the mass by removing exterior portions of material. Attempts to imitate
both processes by casting only, thus dispensing with the cost of
finishing, are common, but as they dispense likewise with all beauty in
the product, even if they do not substitute varnished and tinted zinc
for better metal, their success is commercial only.

We have thus three characteristic kinds of surface resulting from the
conditions of treatment, marking out three natural divisions of the art:
and be it noted that questions of surface or texture are all-important
in the arts; beauty is skin deep. First, the natural skin of the metal
solidified in contact with the mould, and more or less closely
imitative of the surface of the original model, usually for our purposes
a plastic surface; secondly, there is carved, technically called chased,
work; and thirdly, beaten or wrought work, which in ornament is termed

Superimposed on these we have the cross divisions of the crafts
according to the special metal operated on, and in the existing
industrial organisation the groups thus obtained have to be further
divided into many sub-heads, according to the articles produced; and
finally, another commercial distinction has to be drawn which greatly
affects the present condition of handicraft, that is, the division of
the several trades into craftsmen and salesmen. There can be no doubt
that the extent of the existing dissociation of the producing craftsman
from the consumer is an evil for the arts, and that the growing
preponderance of great stores is inimical to excellence of workmanship.
It is, perhaps, an advantage for the workman to be relieved from the
office of salesman; the position of the village smith plying his calling
in face of his customers might not suit every craft, but the services of
the middleman are dearly bought at the price of artistic freedom. It is
too often in the power of the middleman to dictate the quality of
workmanship, too often his seeming interest to ordain that it shall be

The choice of a metal for any particular purpose is determined by
physical properties combined with considerations of cost. Iron, if only
for its cheapness, is the material for the largest works of metal; while
in the form of steel it is the best available material for many very
small works, watch-springs for instance: it has the defect of liability
to rust; the surfaces of other metals may tarnish, but iron rusts
through. For the present only one application of cast iron concerns
us - its use for grates and stoves. The point to remember is, that as the
material has but little beauty, its employment should be restricted to
the quantity prescribed by the demands of utility. Wrought iron, on the
contrary, gives very great scope to the artist, and it offers this
peculiar advantage, that the necessity of striking while the iron is hot
enforces such free dexterity of handling in the ordinary smith, that he
has comparatively little to learn if set to produce ornamental work, and
thus renewed interest in the art has found craftsmen enough who could
readily respond to the demand made upon them.

Copper, distinguished among metals by its glowing red tint, has as a
material for artistic work been overshadowed by its alloys, brass and
bronze; partly because they make sounder castings, partly it is to be
feared from the approach of their colour to gold. Holding an
intermediate position between iron and the precious metals, they are the
material of innumerable household utensils and smaller architectural

Lead, tin, and zinc scarcely concern the artist to-day, though neither
plumber nor pewterer has always been restricted to plain utilitarianism.
Gold and silver have been distinguished in all ages as the precious
metals, both for their comparative rarity and their freedom from
corrosion, and their extreme beauty. They are both extremely malleable
and very readily worked. Unhappily there is little original English work
being done in these metals. The more ordinary wares have all life and
feeling taken out of them by mechanical finish, an abrasive process
being employed to remove every sign of tool-marks. The all-important
surface is thus obliterated. As to design, fashion oscillates between
copies of one past period and another. A comparison of one of these
copies with an original will make the distinction between the work of a
man paid to do his quickest and one paid to do his best clearer than
volumes of description. Indeed, when all is said, a writer can but
indicate the logic that underlies the craft, or hint at the relation
which subsists between the process, the material, and the finished ware:
the distinction between good and bad in art eludes definition; it is not
an affair of reason, but of perception.



The crafts of the stone and wood carver may fairly be taken in review at
the same time, although they differ in themselves.

It is a misfortune that there should be so great a gulf as there is
between the craftsman who is called, and considers himself to be

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