John Hassall nursery friezes bought for Museum of Childhood

Six original designs for nursery friezes by influential poster artist John Hassall have been bought by the V&A Museum of Childhood with help from the Art Fund.

Titled Children's Toys, the friezes date to around 1900. John Hassall – an illustrator and designer who became one of the early 20th century's most influential poster artists – was commissioned to create the designs by Liberty, which reproduced them as lithographs to be fixed directly to the walls of children's rooms.

John Hassall was a regular contributor to publications including the Illustrated London News and The Sketch. He was best known for the poster Skegness is so Bracing, which was imitated by generations of poster designers and became one of the most iconic posters in British history. The original design is in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Hassall's distinctive style, featuring flat colours enclosed by thick black lines, would prove well-suited to children's illustrations. He became known for illustrating nursery rhymes and fairy stories, and his style lent itself naturally to nursery friezes.

Decorative and economical, nursery friezes were a significant part of nursery design from the late 19th century. Children's Toys was the result of Hassall's collaboration with illustrator Cecil Aldin on Art for the Nursery, which aimed to improve the appearance of children's rooms. Their work together was exhibited at the Fine Art Society's 1900 exhibition Pictures for Children.

Art Fund Director, Stephen Deuchar, said: 'These richly evocative designs will be right at home within the Museum’s Early Years collection. We are really pleased to be helping the curators to enhance their graphics collections in this area.'

The friezes will go on display in the V&A Museum of Childhood's permanent galleries from late 2014.

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