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The Victorian era was a long one -- Victoria reigned for 63 years. When we speak of "Victorian style", we often include Victorian, Fin de Siecle, Queen Anne and Edwardian as well. All of these Victorian tiles will work in Victorian homes: encaustic tiles, classic blue and white tiles, mass-produced geometric designs produced by Minton and other industrial tile makers, hand-painted botanicals, Morris designs from Nature, Victorian medieval and Gothic revival tiles, Arts & Crafts tiles (English, American Scottish). A wider circle includes tiles based on Victorian themes and interests.
Consequently, this page is less a listing of Victorian tiles than a gateway to other Victorian era tiles at William Morris Tiles.
William De Morgan Tiles (later tiles are more Art Nouveau)
What do hares and harebells mean? The language of flowers was a popular Victorian interest. Both hares and harebells have their roots in a rich symbolism in mythology and folklore. These tiles bring together the rich mythology of hares and the Victorian fascination with botanicals and floriography (the language of flowers), a means of communication through the way flowers are used and by decrypting their meaning. Coded messages were sent with flowers, expressing feelings that could not be spoken in Victorian society.
Morris & Co. produced tiles during its first decade, then turning over tile operations to William De Morgan as its focus shifted to textiles (wallpapers, fabric, and needlework), as well as custom work for its wealthier clients.
Shown from Top left:
De Morgan Blue Peony scroll for the P&O 'Arabia' (two variations available)
Woodland Weeds (shown in cream)
William Morris Acanthus shown in Black Gold
Membland accent tile (borders, backsplashes, and full mural available with black, cream, cobalt/indigo backgrounds)
May Morris Flower Pot (available in blue and white)
William De Morgan parrots and macaws (tile, backsplash, and fireplace panels available in black and cream)
Blue and white tiles were popular before the Victorian era and well after. The popularity of tile, and faster ships made Dutch Delftware, and blue and white tiles from the near and far east more accessible. Domestic tile makers also made blue and white tiles.
Shown from top left:
Philip Webb Red House birds (border pattern, also single tilestile),
Willow in blue and white,
May Morris Flower Pot in blue and white,
William De Morgan Chinese junk (18 ships available),
A little defining of terms is called for. Although Morris is considered the founder of the Arts & Crafts movement, the term doesn't always mean Morris, and sometimes refers to mass-produced American Craftsman furnishings produced some 70-80 years later. See Why Arts & Crafts is not Craftsman.
For Morris, De Morgan, Burne-Jones and friends, the defining character of Arts & Crafts is the underlying philosophy and the way the tile is made. William De Morgan made blue and white ship tiles in small runs for Morris & Co; that's Victorian Arts & Crafts. Minton and others mass-produced blue and white ship tiles, Victorian but not Arts & Crafts. Both are Victorian and work in a Victorian home.
Here are some Morris and Morris-influenced tiles that lend themselves well to more rustic Arts & Crafts homes such as the kitchen shown.
Although Morris and Ruskin took exception to the quality to the mass-produced furnishings of an increasingly industrialized 19th Century, the tiles produced by Minton and Co. have proved to be quite robust. Minton floor tiles are installed in many churches, and public buildings, such as Westminster Palace and the U.S. Capitol. Signal characteristics of Classic Victorian tiles are geometric patterns which may be inlaid or transfer printed. Characters from literature were popular and were somtimes framed on the tile by geometric shapes, with scroll edges that fit with other tiles. I can think of no Victorian Arts & Crafts tiles that show this mosaic aspect.
The tiles show are based on Edward Detmold's illustartions to Aesop's fables. The Alice in Wonderland tiles are CFA Voysey tiles done for Minton and Co. in 1890, more than 30 years before he designed his famous Alice wallpaper. Although Morris and Voysey were friends, Morris and Co. had stopped producing tiles in-house and sold only De Morgan tiles. Voysey's Alice in Wonderland tiles were produced by Minton Co.
A signal characteristic of Arts & Crafts tiles is that they take their images from nature. This is still true in the later Arts & Crafts tiles of De Morgan and the Glasow School. Shown is William Morris' Bird and Trellis, a pattern he designed after watching the birds darting in and out between the trellises at Red House.
Tiles that reflect the Victorian and Edwardian intests in fairy painting, myths and fables.
Tiles that depict Victorian interests and culture. Of interest to Victorians: botanials and zoology, exploration, other cultures in the Empire, spiritualism, magic, Shakespeare and Blake, a romanticism of medieval culture and literature, Victorian fairy painting, myths and fables.