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Christopher Dresser’s Biography

Christopher Dresser is considered as the first Industrial designer associated with the design reform movement in the second half of the nineteenth century. He created forms and ornaments for numerous manufacturers in Europe including the United Kingdom, France, and also the United States.

Christopher Dresser

Dresser’s work which was influenced by Botanical forms and Japanese art was also significantly influenced by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin and the ornamentalist Owen Jones.

Early Years of Christopher Dresser

Dresser was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1834. From the age of thirteen, he studied at the Government School of Design in London. Many of his mentor and guides were established artists in the field.

They were Richard Redgrave, Henry Cole, Owen Jones and Matthew Digby Wyatt. Dresser came across new types of art in school. He grew particularly interested in botanical art and in 1865, he contributed a plate for Owen Jones’ The Grammar of Ornament. 

He lectured at the Women’s School of Design regarding botany. Dresser felt that he found his true calling win Botanical illustrations. He published many papers on the subject and contributed to numerous magazines during his career.

Dresser’s Works and Businesses

In 1859, Dresser received a doctorate in absentia in the field from the University of Jena in Germany. In continuing his laurels, he was also elected as a Fellow of the Edinburgh Botanical Society in 1860. The next year, he became a Fellow of the Linnean Society.

Christopher Dresser Furniture

Dresser also had a side business of furniture retail and importer. Along with that, he published books and article on topics related to botany and design. Some of his books were The Art of Decorative Design (1862), Principles of Decorative Design (1873), Studies in Design (1876), and Modern Ornamentation (1886).

His most important book to date in Japan: Its Architecture, Art, and Art Manufactures (1882) which helped influence the fashion in Japan in the nineteenth century.

Dresser’s inspiration for books was Mexican, Peruvian. Egyptian, Moroccan and Fijian objects which he came across in the British Museum, South Kensington Museum and the India Museum. Japanese culture, however, was the most influential.

Christopher Dresser’s Biography

He visited the country multiple times to understand them better and became fluent in their language and culture. He was the first European designer to visit the country after its opening to the West in 1854.

Dresser was successful because of his ability to produce designs for a variety of purposes, unlike his peers and contemporaries who could produce designs for certain objects and only handcrafted pieces.

To improve his skill, he became a freelance commercial designer and also an art director. This helped him understand the industry better of him to cater to it. He helped to design carpets and wallpaper for many firms around the world.

However, towards the end of his life, Dresser came across dire financial problems and the stress contributed to his poor health. Towards the end of his life, he only designed wallpapers and textile. Dresser passed away in 1904. His studio was taken over by two of his daughters who were unable to maintain it.

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