Truth, Beauty, Power: Pairing Up

“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 this instalment of Truth, Beauty, Power we’ve piggybacked our long-established Pairing Up series to bring you a selection of connected illustrations with a distinctly Christopher Dresser flavour. And yes, if this feels familiar it’s because we did a similar crossover with our other bimonthly series in January, though with the emphasis more on the pairing up as we’d previously highlighted each artwork as an example of the Archive’s Magnificent Majolica. (Phew, this interconnectedness thing is even applying to our own blog series’ now – it’s hard to keep up!)

Below you’ll find interactive sliders featuring tracings and artworks for three different designs, beginning – rather aptly – with the daffodils and pink-tinted blossom buds of “Spring”.

The fresh new growth stretching out to meet the edges of the circular design in “Spring” transforms into a design that is bursting at the seams come “Summer”. Flowers and foliage reach upwards competing for space and a boldly-patterned butterfly sits with its wings open, basking in the warm sunlight which must surely be powering the scene. Doesn’t this (along with the recent bright weather!) have you yearning for sunny summer days?

In our third and final interactive comparison the dot-to-dot appearance of the tracing is actually the result of delicate perforations, sometimes used when copying the design from one medium to another. It can sometimes be quite tricky to accurately align our paired artworks but, as you’d imagine, in this instance we had it rather easy!

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.