Cliff Holden

Marstrand Designers

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In 1956 Maj Nilsson and Lisa Grönwall began to collaborate with Cliff Holden in their design studio at Västergatan 15B, Gothenburg. The studio moved to the island of Marstrand in 1959 and the group became known internationally as Marstrand Designers.

Maj Nilsson Lisa Grönwall Cliff Holden

The group took part in many competitions and won the following prizes...

1956 Cliff Holden: 3rd honourable mention, International Serigraph Exhibition, New York, USA.
1957 Maj Nilsson: 1st prize, wallpaper design, AB Durotapet, Gävle, Sweden.
1958 Maj Nilsson: 3rd prize, International Serigraph Exhibition, New York, USA.
  Lisa Grönwall: 2nd prize, textile (curtain) design, AB Stobo, Stockholm, Sweden.
  Cliff Holden: 1st honourable mention, International Serigraph Exhibition, New York, USA.
  Maj Nilsson: 1st prize, wallpaper design, Sanderson Centenary, London, England.
1960 Lisa Grönwall: 1st prize and 10th prize, textile (bedcover) designs, Ekens Fabriker, Tollarp, Sweden.
  Maj Nilsson: 3rd prize, textile (clothing) design, AB Salén, Stockholm, Sweden.
  Cliff Holden: 3rd prize, textile (curtain) design, Denbo, Kongens Lyngby, Denmark.
1961 Lisa Grönwall: 3rd prize, carpet design, Carpet Trades Ltd., Kidderminster, England.
1962 Cliff Holden: The Design Centre, Design of the Year Award, wallpaper design Trifoliate, Palladio Range, Lightbown Aspinall Branch of The Wall Paper Manufacturers Ltd., Bredbury, Stockport, England. This award was presented by Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh.

To view the full size image, see...
Gallery: Design Prototypes & Murals (A)
1963 Cliff Holden: American Institute of Interior Designers, International Design Award, wallpaper design Arcadia, Palladio Range, Lightbown Aspinall Branch of The Wall Paper Manufacturers Ltd., Bredbury, Stockport, England.

Designs by Maj Nilsson, Lisa Grönwall and Cliff Holden were chosen for the wallpaper and curtain sections in the Sanderson Centenary Collection (100th anniversary). One of the designs, Cliff Holden's Pavana, was selected by the Lorensberg Restaurant at the Park Avenue Hotel in Gothenburg, where also, later on, Cliff made wall decorations.


Hotels include: Park Avenue, Gothenburg; Rubinen, Gothenburg; Anglais, Stockholm; Amaranten, Stockholm. Other hotels in Sweden; Ronneby Brunn; Nybro; Karlstad; Hassleholm; Brukshotellet Grums; Karlskoga

Ships include: “Gripsholm” and “Kungsholm” (Swedish America Line); Norwegian Cruise ships; Stena Line; Hovercraft SRN4, Hover Lloyd, England; Swedish State Railway Ferries; German State Railway Ferries; Lion Ferries; T.T. Line, Germany; Tor Line, DFDS, Denmark; Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Oslo; Viking Line, Sweden

Offices include: Partille Town Hall; Brostromia, Gothenburg; Lansparbank & Wermlands Bank, Gothenburg; Halsingborgs Sparbank; Esselte, Stockholm; Kockum Shipyard, Malmo; Volvo Head Office, Torslanda, Gothenburg; Saab Missiles, Linkoping, Falkenberg Town Hall conference room,– among others in Sweden

Hospitals, Health Centres, Training Schools for the Physically Handicapped, Old Peoples Homes include: Bracke Ostergard; Fjallbo Vardhem, Gothenburg; Kramfors Lakerstation, Kramfors; CP-hem, Eskilstuna; Halmstad Hospital’s new building, Halmstad – among others in Sweden

Swedish Embassies include: London, Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen, Moscow, Washington (Watergate), Tel Aviv

Swedish Consulates include: London, New York, Chicago


I used to call my design and decorative activity my prostitution. I did not mean to diminish the activity with this label. What I meant was that this kind of by-product of art was a saleable commodity in the market, designed to give pleasure to the recipient. I used to say: "I work to order, to give pleasure, for money". When I work to order this means that I am working to a brief, for example, when executing murals for public places. I will always accept a brief and, in fact, I welcome this as a challenge, much in the same way as Michelangelo did.

However, a painter cannot work to a brief when he is executing an image which needs to be protected from the architectural environment by a frame. (A decorative mural needs no frame because it works out into the architectural space. It not only embellishes the architecture but enlarges the space. So that you get actual space and virtual space working together.)

When a painter accepts a commission he is given a free hand by the client. For this he is grateful because what an artist thinks he sets out to do is never the same as what he actually does. What he produces is not something predictable - it is always a surprise.


In the studio at Västergatan 15B, Gothenburg, 1958:-


'An International Design Award presented by the American Institute of Interior Designers for a Palladio wallpaper printed by the Lightbown Aspinall branch of the Wallpaper Manufacturers, Bredbury, Stockport, England, and designed by Cliff Holden in his studio in Sweden, on the island of Marstrand.

Holden was unable to go to Chicago to get the award because of previous commitments in England and Sweden where he was organizing exhibitions, but a delegation from the A.I.D. will fly to Stockholm in June to present the award.

Holden organized an exhibition in London entitled "Figurative Painting in Sweden" in which he was also one of the exhibitors. From this exhibition the Corporation of the City of Manchester purchased a painting entitled "Reclining Form", painted in 1948. This painting was purchased for the Rutherston Collection. Manchester is the town where Holden was born.

The National Board of Governors of the A.I.D. have just informed Holden that it has given them great pleasure to elect Holden to membership as a Design Associate of the Institute for his contribution to Swedish as well as International Design which is highly regarded. The Membership Certificate will be presented in Stockholm on June 8th 1963.

For over four months during the winter, Holden and his studio, Marstrand Designers, organized and financed a large exhibition of textiles, wallpapers, carpets and laminates at two museums in Sweden, namely Röhsska Konstslojdmuseet and Lunds Konsthallen. This exhibition included over 65% of British products and raised a tremendous interest in a country where British Design is unheard of.

Writing in Dagens Nyheter, sometime after the exhibition, a well-known architect, Erik Berglund, one of the directors of the Design Centre in Stockholm, attacked the bad quality of Swedish wallpaper and said that the only good things being produced today in Sweden were by Marstrand Designers organized by the Englishman, Cliff Holden, who had at the back of him the whole tradition of English Wallpaper from William Morris onwards.'


Från Marstrandsgruppens utställning på Röhsska Museet i Göteborg: provtryck och idéskisser av Maj Nilsson, Lisa Grönwall och Cliff Holden. Utställningen arrangerad av Margareta och Rolf Åberg. Den har nu flytatts till Lunds Konsthall där den pågår till 3 februari. Foto Jan Olsson.

From the Marstrand Designers exhibition at the Röhsska Museum (Röhsska Konstslojdmuseet) in Gothenburg - this is the exhibition mentioned in the penultimate paragraph of the Press Release above.

The picture is of part of a long wall showing proof prints, idea sketches and prototypes by Maj Nilsson, Lisa Grönwall and Cliff Holden:-


Cliff in the studio at Marstrand, 1974 - detail of a 35m long wall for Torline (now DFDS) vessel Tor Britannia (renamed Prince of Scandinavia 1991, sold to Moby Lines 2003):-


Commissions were undertaken: large scale murals, decorative panels and textiles for public buildings, ships and private homes.

[Page last updated: 22nd January 2021]

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