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IN the foreword to this book there is a delightful note by the author on Moyr Smith, Victorian illustrator and ceramics designer, who, though never an international name, was, in his own eyes, rather different – ranking himself amongst some of the greatest names in 19th century design in terms of his influence in Britain and overseas, although, without any personal letters or diaries, this high-hat claim is hard to prove.

Glasgow-born Moyr Smith was, for much of his life, a self-employed freelance designer and illustrator, although the emphasis often changed depending on his current project, but the chronology does show that he designed a tile series, the Old Testament, for Minton in 1872 and won the Grand Prize for the Minton China Works at the Paris Exhibition in 1878. Associated with Christopher Dresser and Bruce Talbert, many of Moyr Smith’s designs for Dresser during the 1870s were sold on to companies such as Linthorpe Art Pottery. As an illustrator Moyr Smith worked for Punch magazine, with whom Moyr Smith began a ten-year long series of illustrations; mainly mock-
Etruscan drawings and cartoons.

From 1880-88 Moyr Smith edited the monthly magazine Decoration: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture and Art Manufactures and it is through these issues that Moyr Smith’s work, sometimes under pseudonyms, has become better known, particularly his designs for tiles for Minton.

Illustrated in colour in this book are many of these, together with some of the interiors of Holloway Sanatorium, particularly the astonishing Recreation Hall, completely covered with painted and gilded decoration designed and supervised by Moyr Smith himself, which sumptuousness was described, uncomfortably, as “not to be found in any modern building in this country except the House of Lords.”

Good on the Minton connection, this is the latest in the Richard Dennis range of specialist titles that the publisher does so well.