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Talwin Morris

Talwin Morris (1865 – 1911) was a graphic artist and member of the circle of artists surrounding the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow. Through his revolutionary book cover designs, Talwin was able to introduce a wide audience to the “Glasgow Style” as it flourished at the end of the nineteenth century. He was a designer who reached many people and whose designs were accessible to most sections of society.

Talwin was born in 1865 in Winchester, Hampshire. Following the death of his parents, he was raised by his Aunt who had plans for him to enter the Church. Talwin refused, curtailing his studies at Lancing College, and at seventeen became articled to his uncle’s architectural practice in Reading, later moving to the offices of Martin Brookes in London. Whilst undergoing his training his interests moved to the decorative arts and he was inspired by William Morris and the flourishing Arts and Crafts movement. In particular Talwin was drawn to graphics and at the age of twenty six he became a sub editor on the weekly Black and White journal published by Cassell and Company.

In 1892 he married Alice Marsh, a talented writer of children’s books. Talwin became art director for the Glasgow publishing firm Blackie & Son in 1893, at a time when the "Glasgow Style" was gaining momentum. He became a friend and patron to the leading figures of the movement in its early years - Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Herbert McNair, and the sisters Frances and Margaret MacDonald and has been described as the fifth member of the renowned Glasgow Four. Charles Rennie Mackintosh owed his commission for The Hill House at Helensburgh to Talwin, as it was he who introduced the young architect to his enlightened employer, Walter Blackie, who was looking for an architect to build him a stylish new residence.

Talwin did a great deal to spread the influence of the Glasgow style in commissioning and designing book covers for popular titles which were aimed at the mass market. Characteristics of Talwin’s elegant designs include: dots, architectural frames, geometric abstraction, spare lettering, whiplash lines and stylized flowers and birds - all motifs recognizable as being of the Glasgow style. In 1898, the directors of Blackie created an independent subsidiary called, The Gresham Publishing Company which published scholarly works of reference, or literature, which were available by subscription. The larger format of these books offered Talwin a bigger canvas for his designs and the Gresham book covers represent some of his finest work. Talwin also developed a distinctive and elegant style of lettering which complemented his designs. He also produced designs for page layout, endpapers and title-pages and his design work extended to textiles, interior design, furniture and metalwork.

Talwin’s last years were dogged by ill health and he retired in 1909 at the age of forty four. Two years later he died from a heart related illness. His friend Charles Rennie Mackintosh was commissioned to design his gravestone, the inscription reading, “Love is more great than we conceive and death is the bringer of unknown redemptions”.