Christopher Dresser – British Industrial Designer

Covered Soup Tureen and Ladle 1880 by Christopher Dresser
Covered Soup Tureen and Ladle 1880 by Christopher Dresser

Christopher Dresser (1834 – 1904) was a British botanist, metalworker and glass and industrial designer born in Glasgow.

Dresser was a one-of-a-kind designer in the nineteenth century. He is regarded as a forerunner of modern industrial design, creating simple, practical things for mass production when colleagues like William Morris and John Ruskin advocated a return to craft production based on the mediaeval guild model.

Education & Training

Dresser, a botanist by training, studied at the South Kensington School of Design. He became a Star student and later taught. His design logic was formed from his study of nature, resulting in a geometric pattern and form language applied to industrial design. He developed a geometric, reduced visual grammar applied to shockingly modern and functional silverware such as teapots, bread racks, and soup tureens, inspired by Moorish designs and Japanese art. Dresser’s ideas were published in a series of design books significant both in the UK and overseas.

Paved the way for Bauhaus

Although most of Dresser’s work was traditional by nineteenth-century standards, some of his metalware had stunningly innovative shapes that were almost thirty years before the Bauhaus. His works are essential archetypes in the history of twentieth-century Modernism. His work merged cutting-edge materials science, such as metal electroplating, with advanced manufacturing techniques. In Victorian England, his simple designs had no contemporaneous equivalents; many of his severe forms would not be equalled until the 1920s.


McDermott, C. (1997). 20th-century design. Carlton.

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