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William Morris (English artist 1834-96) Founder Arts and Crafts Movement

Born into a middle-class family in Essex, Morris grew up on his family’s estate with adjoining farm and learned to love the profusion of plant life there. This, his background grounding in the new Anglo-Catholic movement and his interest in medieval history as he grew up, led to his becoming a natural artist with a love of the Church. During his term at Oxford University, he decided against his first calling to join the Church. His lifelong friend, Edward Burne-Jones shared his beliefs in the rebellion against the tastes of the time and social injustice and followed the teachings of William Ruskin.

 

Through Burne-Jones, Morris met Dante Gabriel Rossetti and other Pre-Raphaelite painters and left from another of his training interests, architecture, and turned to painting and poetry. In 1859, he married a typical Pre-Raphaelite young woman, Jane Burden. She appears in several of Rossetti’s paintings. She bore him two daughters at their home in Bexleyheath, Kent. The firm of Morris and Co/, known as the Firm, was dedicated to raising the standards of craftsmanship and design. The building now known as the Victoria and Albert Museum is home to one of his commissions, a dining room. Morris took a major part in the production of many pieces of furniture, wallpaper designs and textiles produced by the Firm. He advised designers to follow nature, avoid using unnatural dyes and study antiquities for an example.

 

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” was his mantra; it became the rule by which the Arts and Crafts Movement, which he led, made all future works.  The affair between Rossetti and Morris’s wife that led to Rossetti falling subject to a mental illness, did not break up the marriage, and did not break up the friendship between the two men. His daughter, May, became a productive textile designer and, after Morris’s death in 1896, the firm of Morris and Co. continued to prosper well into the 20th century. The reputation of Morris’s textiles and wallpapers is still strong and the name continues to affect interior design today.

 

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William Morris Design 1

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