Truth, Beauty, Power: Tessellation

“Truth, Beauty, Power” is a bimonthly series where we can share the wonderful details found within the Archive’s Christopher Dresser artworks with you. Every other month we’ll highlight one or more artworks from the Dresser Portfolio as detailed images, galleries, or interactive comparisons. We hope you enjoy them! You can also find out more about Dresser and his relationship with the company in our In Depth introduction to the series.

In a previous post in our Truth, Beauty, Power series we created a gallery of details from a group of repeating border designs. This time, however, instead of zooming in we’re zooming out – each of the images below is a composite of a single pattern from the Dresser Portfolio digitally repeated to allow us to see how they look when scaled up.

Ornament of some kind is applied to almost every article that we see around us. The papers on our walls, the carpets on our floors, the hangings at our windows, the plates from which we eat, are all covered by patterns of some kind.

Christopher Dresser, Principles of Decorative Design

The designs above and below share much in common with the Blue and White artworks we featured in a previous instalment of the series, with similar Japanese influences in both subject matter and ornamentation.

The orderly repetition of parts frequently aids in the production of ornamental effects. If plants are employed as ornaments they must not be treated imitatively, but must be conventionally treated, or rendered into ornaments.

Christopher Dresser, Principles of Decorative Design


View the source artwork for the highlights above

What is Truth, Beauty, Power?

Long since I was so fully impressed with the idea that true art-principles are so perfectly manifested by these three words, that I embodied them in an ornamental device which I painted on my study door, so that all who entered might learn the principles which I sought to manifest in my works.

The imitation is always less beautiful than the thing imitated; and as each material has the power of expressing beauty truthfully, thus the want of truth brings its own punishment. Let the expression of our art ever be truthful.

Shapes which are not beautiful are rarely decorative. A composition that is beautiful must have no parts which could be taken from it and yet leave the remainder equally good or better. The perfectly beautiful is that which admits no improvement.

We now come to consider an art-element or principle of great importance, for if absent from any composition, feebleness or weakness is the result… power is antagonistic to weakness… power means energy; power implies a conqueror. Our compositions, then, must be powerful.

Christopher Dresser, Principles of Decorative Design

Principles of Decorative Design is available to read at the Internet Archive.