Friday, September 17, 2010

William Kilburn-A Practical Artist

William Kilburn was a Georgian--strictly speaking much of his work was done before the Regency era. But his beautiful floral renderings shaped the look of Regency world, through the fabrics and furnishings that decorated it.

I first became aware of Kilburn some fifteen years ago with a small pocket diary from British company, Past Times. It bore illustrations of Kilburn's work from a Victoria and Albert Museum treasure trove called the 'Kilburn Album'.

William Kilburn was born in Ireland in 1745 and lived to 1818. He began his working life as apprentice to a calico-printer, and showed great talent in design and drawing. His skill at botanical drawing led him to England to work on the famed Flora Londinensis published by William Curtis in 1777. After 1777 however there is no evidence of further botanical illustration, and Kilburn seems to have concentrated on floral design particularly for fabrics. He was the manager of a calico-printing works, and in 1787 he was one of the prime movers in the passing of a copyright law protecting the artists and printers of patterns from theft of their designs.

I find his floral illustrations utterly delightful. This design with an intense blue background shows a distinct flavour of chinoiserie in the angular branches that unite the flowers.

In this cream-grounded design, the pattern is concentrated in sprays of flowers; this would have a delightful impact if used in wallpaper or silk hangings.

William Kilburn was a financial success in the calico-printing industry. To me, however, his success lies in leaving a legacy of beauty for future generations to enjoy. His designs have the power still to give pleasure and satisfy the design esthetic of anyone who loves flowers. Thank you, Mr. Kilburn.

Next week, notable Regency author Nicola Cornick will be guest blogging here on The Cult of Celebrity in Regency England. Be sure to come back then and enjoy Nicola's informative post.

'Til next time,


P.S. The Kilburn family is still involved in artistic pursuits. You can visit Alistair Kilburn, William's great-great-great-grandson, and view the delightful work of the current generation.


Miranda Neville said...

Gorgeous fabrics! Thanks you for these.

Vic said...

What a great post! Thank you for sharing this. Vic