We have been smitten with illustration in design for ages and over the last year the drawings of legendary painter Pablo Picasso have been top of mind. That’s thanks in part to the Tate Modern’s first solo exhibition of his work, and the Emmy-nominated series, Genius: Picasso, that aired on National Geographic earlier this year (starring Antonio Banderas as the artist). If you missed either, the Tate’s catalog is worth picking up and you can stream the full season of Genius on Amazon. Beyond his extraordinary paintings, Picasso’s simple line drawings entered the home landscape gracing everything from pottery (try 1st Dibs for vases and plates) to large-scale wall frescoes. This example is one of five installations he created for the veranda of Château de Castille in 1950. The property, near Uzès in Southern France, belonged to his friend, the renowned British art historian and collector, Douglas Cooper, and is currently for sale through Sotheby’s.
Around the same time, and just down the coast in St Jean Cap Ferrat, Picasso’s friend, artist Jean Cocteau, also left his mark at the home of friends. While visiting Alec & Francine Weisweiller’s Villa Santo Sospir, Cocteau grew bored of the white walls and slowly painted frescoes on all of them. But he didn’t stop there. Matisse reportedly told him, “When you decorate a wall, you decorate the others” and Cocteau did just that, painting doors, installing mosaics and even pulling from his set designer days, painting this wall tapestry as he would the backdrop of a stage.
Across the Atlantic in New York’s Hudson Valley, artist Henry Varnum Poor was also applying his illustrations to interiors. Named one of America’s top ten painters by The New Yorker in 1931, Poor turned his attention to interiors when he began building his home in the1920s. Dubbed Crow House, it features several examples of his hand-painted tiles and textiles, like the chevron and floral motifs adorning this bathroom along with a nude line drawing. There’s a wonderful article in The World of Interiors (May 2007) that reveals how Crow House became the epicenter of a kind of American Bloomsbury during that time, with Poor’s friends including a group of creatives like Marcel Duchamp, Ingrid Bergman and Man Ray.
Fast forward to the present day, some of our favourite line drawings come from artists Luke Edward Hall and Robin Lucas in Britain, Wayne Pate in New York and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac in Paris. They've all made their way onto interior surfaces, from plates and vases to lampshades and even furniture. Castelbajac is most notably a fashion designer but his illustrations are incredibly charming. Follow him on Instagram to see how he, like the artists before him, leaves drawings in his wake, be it chalk on walls, marker on restaurant menus, the list goes on. If you spot one around the city, take a photo and share it with us!
Photography © François Halard, Villa Santo Sospir, Don Freeman