WEFOUNDWilliam Morris: The Critical Heritage (The Critical Heritage Series)


William Morris started designing wallpapers in the early 1860’s, at a period when most wallpapers were generally formal in design, in a repeating pattern.

Though naturally-inspired patterns have always been found in fabric and wallpaper design, William Morris introduced a new version of naturalistic patterns to wallpaper and fabric. Some of Morris’ designs were inspired – or copied – from historic designs he found in the Victoria and Albert Museum. But mostly, Morris designed from nature, using as a basis the plants and flowers found in his own gardens or in the woods and fields close to his homes.

The individual wallpaper names speak to these naturalistic designs: Pink & Rose; Marigold; Rose; Wild Tulip; Daisy; Fruit; Michaelmas Daisy ; and others. Other designs were named after nearby rivers: the Wandle; Medway, Evenlode and Cray – all with meandering, diagonal designs.

W as William Morris an anarchist? You might hardly think so looking at his chintzes and his willow-pattern wallpapers. But you only have to turn to News from Nowhere , his extraordinary utopian novel, to see how thoroughgoing an anarchist he was.

Morris's originality as visionary thinker lies in the case he makes for the centrality of art. He argued with ferocity that art was not a matter of pictures on the wall, not merely a plutocratic hobby. In his Nowhere, art is in the detail of everyday life, in the design of household goods, conservation of the countryside, thoughtful planning of towns, proper upkeep of roads. In this new post-revolutionary England, art is so omnipresent there is no need to define it. "What business have we with art at all unless all can share it?" By the 1880s – his violent years of involvement with socialist politics – Morris was prepared to die for the cause of democracy in art.

What drove him into revolutionary activism was his anger and shame at the injustices within society. He burned with guilt at the fact that his "good fortune only" allowed him to live in beautiful surroundings and to pursue the work he adored. He fulminated that real art could not exist while people were divided into "cultivated and uncultivated classes". Often perilous experimental social mixes were a feature of the Morris-inspired arts and crafts communities as they developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Cotswolds being the favoured destination. Morris had invented a new species in society, the gentleman – and lady – artisan.

William Morris started designing wallpapers in the early 1860’s, at a period when most wallpapers were generally formal in design, in a repeating pattern.

Though naturally-inspired patterns have always been found in fabric and wallpaper design, William Morris introduced a new version of naturalistic patterns to wallpaper and fabric. Some of Morris’ designs were inspired – or copied – from historic designs he found in the Victoria and Albert Museum. But mostly, Morris designed from nature, using as a basis the plants and flowers found in his own gardens or in the woods and fields close to his homes.

The individual wallpaper names speak to these naturalistic designs: Pink & Rose; Marigold; Rose; Wild Tulip; Daisy; Fruit; Michaelmas Daisy ; and others. Other designs were named after nearby rivers: the Wandle; Medway, Evenlode and Cray – all with meandering, diagonal designs.

W as William Morris an anarchist? You might hardly think so looking at his chintzes and his willow-pattern wallpapers. But you only have to turn to News from Nowhere , his extraordinary utopian novel, to see how thoroughgoing an anarchist he was.

Morris's originality as visionary thinker lies in the case he makes for the centrality of art. He argued with ferocity that art was not a matter of pictures on the wall, not merely a plutocratic hobby. In his Nowhere, art is in the detail of everyday life, in the design of household goods, conservation of the countryside, thoughtful planning of towns, proper upkeep of roads. In this new post-revolutionary England, art is so omnipresent there is no need to define it. "What business have we with art at all unless all can share it?" By the 1880s – his violent years of involvement with socialist politics – Morris was prepared to die for the cause of democracy in art.

What drove him into revolutionary activism was his anger and shame at the injustices within society. He burned with guilt at the fact that his "good fortune only" allowed him to live in beautiful surroundings and to pursue the work he adored. He fulminated that real art could not exist while people were divided into "cultivated and uncultivated classes". Often perilous experimental social mixes were a feature of the Morris-inspired arts and crafts communities as they developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Cotswolds being the favoured destination. Morris had invented a new species in society, the gentleman – and lady – artisan.

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William Morris started designing wallpapers in the early 1860’s, at a period when most wallpapers were generally formal in design, in a repeating pattern.

Though naturally-inspired patterns have always been found in fabric and wallpaper design, William Morris introduced a new version of naturalistic patterns to wallpaper and fabric. Some of Morris’ designs were inspired – or copied – from historic designs he found in the Victoria and Albert Museum. But mostly, Morris designed from nature, using as a basis the plants and flowers found in his own gardens or in the woods and fields close to his homes.

The individual wallpaper names speak to these naturalistic designs: Pink & Rose; Marigold; Rose; Wild Tulip; Daisy; Fruit; Michaelmas Daisy ; and others. Other designs were named after nearby rivers: the Wandle; Medway, Evenlode and Cray – all with meandering, diagonal designs.


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