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William Morris March 24, 1834 – October 3, 1896. “English designer, craftsman, poet, and early socialist, whose design for furniture, fabrics, stained glass, wallpaper, and other decorative arts generated the Arts and Crafts movement in England.”. Background. Born March 24, 1834 in Walthamstow.

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william morris march 24 1834 october 3 1896

William MorrisMarch 24, 1834 – October 3, 1896

“English designer, craftsman, poet, and early socialist, whose design for furniture, fabrics, stained glass, wallpaper, and other decorative arts generated the Arts and Crafts movement in England.”

  • Born March 24, 1834 in Walthamstow.
  • Solid middle-class background.
  • Attended Marlborough College at age of 22.
  • Marlborough only serious influence was to turn him from Evangelicalism to Anglo-Catholicism.

“As far as my school instruction went, I think I may fairly say I learned next to nothing there, for indeed next to nothing was taught; but the place is in very beautiful country, thickly scattered over with prehistoric monuments, and I set myself eagerly to studying these and everything else that had any history in it, and so perhaps learnt a good deal.”

Young Lad Morris, at age 23.

oxford movement
Oxford Movement
  • Influenced by the Oxford Movement, Morris went to Exeter College, Oxford (1853) to prepare for a career as a clergy-man.
    • Oxford Movement: demanded restoration of ceremony and emphasized the importance of service among the poor.
  • At Exeter College, Morris met Burne-Jones where they formed a long-lasting friendship.
  • Summer of 1855, Morris and Burne-Jones abandoned their plans to join the church.
  • Ruskin’s Edinburgh Lectures introduced them to Pre-Raphaelites
    • Pre-Raphaelite: direct and uncomplicated depiction of nature of Italian paintings.
  • The Return of the Dove to the Ark, by John Everett Millais 1851, was the first Pre-Raphaelites painting Morris and Burne-Jones saw.
  • Inspiration and direction in life found in art, not religion like they had first thought.
architect painter
  • Trip to France had a significant impact on Morris.
  • Moved by the power of great Gothic Cathedrals
  • Apprenticed with G E Street, gothic revival architect.
  • Summer of 1856, Street moved office to London.
  • Morris and Burne-Jones became Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s pupil on an unofficial basis.
  • Rossetti persuaded Morris to take up painting rather than architecture.
  • Morris had a brief career as a painter.
  • La Belle Iseult, 1858, Morris’s only surviving oil painting. (Model: Jane Burden)
  • Married Jane Burden in 1859
interior decorators and manufacturers
Interior Decorators and Manufacturers
  • Morris commissioned Philip Webb to build the Red House at Bexleyheath.
  • During the furnishing and decorating of this house, Morris and his friends came with the idea of an association of “fine art workmen.”
  • Firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner, Brown, Rossetti, Webb, and Burne-Jones. (later became known as Morris & Co.)
  • Began with stained glass, mural decoration, embroidery, painted tiles, and furniture followed by wallpapers and printed and woven fabrics.
  • Dedicated to recapturing the spirit and quality of medieval craftsmanship
arts and craft movement
Arts and Craft Movement
  • Aesthetic movement of appreciation for decorative arts
  • “Morris’s stress on the need for artist to contribute their talents to the ‘useful arts’ helped to stimulate the Arts and Crafts movement.”
  • Revival of artistic craftsmanship.
  • Became identified with growing international interest in design, especially with Art Nouveau.
  • Morris:

“I don’t want art for a few, any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few…”

“What business have we with art at all unless all can share it?”

art is the “expression by man of his pleasure in labour.”

“made by the people, for the people, as a happiness for the maker and the user.”

Contradiction: “all art cost time, trouble, and thought.” Only accessible to a few, luxury of the rich.

social responses industrial revolution
  • all industrial art was crude, vulgar, and overloaded with ornament.
  • Manufacturers enabled to turn out thousands of cheap articles in the same time and at the same cost as were formerly required for production of one well-made object.
  • Skilled craftsmanship replaced by machinery
  • First artist to realize how precarious and decayed the social foundations of art had become during the years since the Industrial Revolution.
  • Morris was increasingly disturbed by the degradation of the urban poor.
morris as a poet
Morris as a Poet
  • Achieved fame from The Life and Death of Jason (1867). A romantic narrative.
  • Poems on classical and medieval sources, The Earthly Paradise (1868-70).
  • First public lecture, The Decorative Arts.
  • First collection of lectures, Hopes and Fears of Art.
  • ‘Missing’ poem from A Book of Verse. 1870
wallpaper design
Wallpaper Design

Marigold 1875

Dove and Rose 1879

stained glass window
Stained-Glass Window

St Peter and St Paul 1865

The Brachet Licking Sir Tristram 1861


“Arts and Craft Movement.” Encyclopedia Britannica. . Encyclopedia Britannica Online. <http://search.eb.com/eb/article-9009722>.

“Morris, William.” Encyclopedia Britannica. . Encyclopedia Britannica Online. <http://search.eb.com/eb/article-9053819>.

Pevsner, Nicolaus. Pioneers of Modern Design. New Haven and London : Yale University Press, 2005.

Poulson, Christine. William Morris. London : The Apple Press, 1989.

Miele, Chris. Ed. From William Morris: Building Conservation and The Arts and Crafts cult of Authenticity 1877-1939. New Haven and London : Yale University Press, 2005.

Kruft, Hanno-Walter. The History of Architectural Theory from Vitruvius to the Present. New York : Princeton Architectural Press, 1994,