Lyon, Cottier & Co: 19th Century Decorators

Scottish-born decorators Daniel Cottier and John Lamb Lyon established Lyon, Cottier & Co in Sydney in 1873 as a branch of the London Firm Cottier & Co.

For around fifty years, Lyon, Cottier & Co decorated the finest public buildings, private houses and churches. The firm was most noted for painted wall and ceiling decorations, the design and manufacture of stained glass, decorating ceramic tiles, and importing and supplying textiles, carpets and lighting.

Lyon, Cotter and Co was one of a new generation of late-19th-century firms that provided coordinated interior schemes rather than offering just one type of furnishing or fitting. Its focus was on providing quality crafted and manufactured wears known as ‘art furnishings’, which went beyond ordinary trade wares and were good enough to please the eye of an artist.

Lyon, Cottier & Co's Reclining Woman

Lyon, Cottier & Co's decorative work late-19th-century Sydney included the design and supply of handpainted tiles, often fitted into fireplace surrounds.

The design used on tiles and other surfaces by Lyon, Cottier & Co were frequently taken from an existing store of designs, such as the motif of the reclining woman used on these tiles. The reclining woman appears in sometimes modified form both in Australia and in parent company Cottier & Co's work overseas, as tiles, stained-glass designs, and even a painted panel embedded in a piece of cabinet furniture in the United Kingdom. In addition, the reclining woman was adapted, showing just head and shoulders and holding a fan, to represent 'summer' in images of the four seasons that appear in stained glass and painted decoration, including on the drawing room ceiling at Government House, Sydney.

Past exhibition

  • 11 January 2022 - 17 February 2023

Hand painted title showing the middle section of reclining figure in landscape

A global design story

Their original owner and use remain a mystery, but these striking tiles hold an intriguing connection to a significant international design story