Thursday, 12 June 2014

Dolls' Houses of the World: Number Two

This is the Jessie Marion King House. OK, so it may not be one of the world's most famous dolls' houses, but I have chosen it because I love it and it is by a fantastic Scottish artist and designer, Jessie M King. 

King is perhaps best known as an illustrator of books, mostly, but not exclusively, for children.
However, she also designed and decorated ceramics, murals, fabrics, stained glass and interior designs.

Jessie M King was a student at the Glasgow School of Art from 1892 and became a tutor of book decoration and design from 1899. 

Whilst we are on the subject of the Glasgow School of Art, an iconic building designed externally and internally by Charles Renne Mackintosh, I wanted to say how very sorry I was to hear of the devastating fire  in May, which destroyed part of the wonderful building.

One of the rooms so tragically destroyed was the Library, a beautiful interior, considered by many to be one of Mackintosh's best works. The room was still very much in use by students, many of whom also lost some of their artwork in the fire.

The Library was full of irreplaceable pieces by Mackintosh, along with books and artwork.

Firefighters worked extremely hard to prevent the fire from destroying the entire building. Thanks to their efforts much of what could have been destroyed by the fire was saved.

The three pictures above show the aftermath of the fire in the Library. A salvage and clean up operation is now underway, and hopefully the building and its beautiful interiors can be rebuilt and restored. 

Going back to the dolls' house! 

Jessie King married a fellow artist and Glasgow School of Art alumni Earnest Archibald Taylor in 1908. They moved to Paris in 1911 and set up the Sheiling Atelier School, to teach art and design. 

In 1913 King presented her interior design for a nursery at an exhibition of art for children, Exposition de l'Art Pour l'Enfance, at the Musee Galliera in Paris. It was for this exhibition that the dolls' house above was created.

This is a photograph of the nursery which had white painted furniture, blue walls with murals and stained glass windows. You can see the dolls house on the left hand side of the photo.

This is the exhibition poster 

Above are two designs for the nursery: a mural of the Frog Princess, and a design for one of the walls, which gives some idea of the colour and decoration used in the final design at the exhibition.

Jessie King also decorated ceramics, this delightful jug, in the V&A, London, is one painted by the artist. You can see similarities in terms of style and colours used on the jug and in the nursery.

And here is one of King's wonderful book covers for children

This enchanting book illustration is also by King. The houses in the background share some characteristics with the dolls' house created for the nursery, with their little square windows and green shutters.

Another beautiful book cover design by Jessie King. The Jessie M King House is on display at the V&A museum in London. There are also some great vintage dolls' houses at the V&A's Museum of Childhood in Bethnel Green in London. Please see their website for further information.

Please see the Glasgow School of Art's website for more information on their iconic building.


  1. I wasn't familiar with Jessie King until now, so thanks for that, Andy! What a tragedy about the fire --hopefully they will be able to restore that fantastic library. Thanks for another enlightening post!

  2. Thanks Andy, for such an informative post. In design school they only focused on Mackintosh from the Glasgow School of design. What a wonderful artist Jessie King was. I would love to see inside the house!

  3. I love Jessie King's dolls house - I had not seen the photo of it in the exhibition before, really great to see it in the context it was designed in - and colour designs for the walls too! It must have been stunning. Nor had I seen the other things she designed and illustrated. Her paintings are so vivid and full of life and movement, just gorgeous! I too would like to see inside her dolls house - I wonder if she decorated the interior, and if it is full of rich colours like her other designs? I've always imagined it as stark white, like some of CRM's interiors.

    So sad to see the photos of the aftermath of the fire. How one could salvage anything from that, I can't imagine. However, I am sure they have photos and perhaps plans from which they can recreate it.

  4. Hello Andy,
    It is great to have a new post. I did not know of Jessie King/. The dollhouse is great and I loved the pictures you put in this post. the use of color is incredible. It is such a shame that beautiful library was destroyed. Here's hoping they will be able to rebuild and salvage more then they hoped.
    Big hug,

  5. I've never heard of her before - so I'm glad you introduced me to this very interesting lady and her work. Thanks for an interesting post.


  6. Im glad I popped in for a visit, I had never heard of her before so thank you for sharing your knowledge with us :)


  7. Hi Andy, what a beautiful little Dolls House, I just love the design and I can see why you admire it so much. Her illustrations are beautiful too, so detailed and colourful. What an absolute shame about the fire, so devastating to loos such history, I am pleased they managed to save some.

    ML Fi xx

  8. Thanks for introducing me to Jessie King and supplying the information, Andy.
    I like her style and the vibrant colors she used.
    From now on I will pay attention if I see her name pop up anywhere.

    Isn't it just awful what devastation a fire can do?
    I do hope there is enough money raised asap to restore before even more gets damaged.
    Good to read you again!

  9. This is an informative and interesting blog post, Andy, thanks for sharing. I was not familiar with Jessie King, but this dollhouse is wonderful.
    t is such a shame that beautiful library was destroyed. I hope they will be able to rebuild it.
    Hugs, Ilona

  10. Jessie King's dolls house and illustrations are wonderful. I was not familiar with her name. Thank you for sharing the information. It is very sad about the fire in that beautiful library and the wonderful architecture and furniture that was lost but it is good to hear most of the building was saved.