I’m starting with a couple of images today because even if you haven’t heard of William Morris you will have seen some of his designs as his work had a major influence on interior decorations, fabrics and the fashion scene. Importantly the work of William Morris embodies what we have been talking about of late: geometric order, nature, patterns, and yes we have to say it - fanaticism! And of interest to Gaudi fans, he was influenced by the work of Morris.
William Morris (1834-1896) was an English textile designer who believed people should be surrounded by beautiful objects. He designed wallpapers, carpets, embroideries, tapestries, tiles and book covers. Here is his home - Red House (a Palace of Art) which was co-designed in 1859-60 by Morris with architect Philip Webb.1
Morris was a major player in the British Arts and Craft Movement fighting the changes taking place in design caused by the mechanisation of the western world. Morris stood for the preservation of traditional craftsmanship which stresses the inherent beauty of the material, the importance of nature as inspiration, and the value of simplicity, utility, and beauty.2
The movement stood for traditional craftsmanship using simple forms, and often used medieval, romantic, or folk styles of decoration. It was more than an arts movement advocating economic & social reform & being essentially anti-industrial.
Morris, an Oxford graduate, was a life-long friend of Edward Burne-Jones, one of England most famous painters of the 1800s who introduced Morris to The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood who were making a major contribution to the English art world and who encouraged Morris to see an alternative to the dehumanised objects being produced by machines.1
You can see the romantic Pre-Raphaelite influence in this tapestry by Morris.
During his career, William Morris produced over 50 wallpapers. These designs – many of which feature in the Victoria & Albert Museum's extensive Morris collection – adopted a naturalistic and very British take on pattern that was both new and quietly radical.
William Morris was also a poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist. The illustrations in his fantasy novel The Wood Beyond the World emphasise the influence of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
I love the tiles William Morris designed so our last image for this post on this amazing artist will show you an example.
William Morris (with Pre-Raphaelite friends) founded Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. (1861–1875), a furnishings & decorative arts manufacturer and retailer. In 1875 the firm became Morris & Co. which had a great influence on the decoration of churches and houses up until 1940 when the firm closed down.
We are coming up to International Women's Day (8 March) so we must, of course, celebrate female artists. We will start with Jane Morris (née Burden, 1839– 1914) embroiderer & English artists' model who embodied the Pre-Raphaelite ideal of beauty. She was muse to both William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti! Later she became William Morris' wife and their daughter Mary (May) Morris will be featured in our blog very soon.
A large slice of artistic ability is definitely inherited.