Talwin Morris covers. Image courtesy of Lyon and Turnbull, Fine Art Auctioneers.
Technological advances at the time had led to the growth in printed matter and better quality reproduction of illustrations and photography. A number of designers produced illustrative work including posters, designs for books and book plates. Mass produced books were published by Blackie’s featuring Glasgow Style designs, many by the company's Art Director, Talwin Morris.
Poster designs from the early career of the Four share common themes, with elongation and plant motifs, druidic imagery, birds and hearts. The Macdonald sister's Drooko poster, a studio commission for a local umbrella manufacturer was also displayed at the 1896 Art Institute exhibition in Glasgow. The poster was criticised in the local press due to its severity and representation of the female form. Notes by Margaret Macdonald reveal the design was based on the Umbelliferous plant from which the umbrella is named, many species of which are said to be dangerous. This explains the dark, unfriendly look of the subject and shows a thoughtful and witty approach to the design.
Jessie M. King’s distinctive style with the sweeping line and dots and solid blocks of black may have been inspired by Aubrey Beardsley who she admired. Her designs are light, with a dream-like, fairy tale feel, often featuring knights, maidens and angels clothed in the medieval or Celtic folklore style. Her designs for book covers show a distinctive style of lettering and regular motifs, particularly the use of dots, stylised flowers and plants, roses, abstract forms and shapes, often swirling and derived from nature. His designs are fresh and attractive, even today.
Celtic imagery is a common theme particularly in the work of the Four. There is clearly symbolic meaning in the posters. The designs of Jessie M. King, who is referenced as a Glasgow Style designer, appear to share no commonality with the other designers, in terms of motifs or colours.