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Wallpapers of William Morris

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BC: Wallpapers of William Morris by Adriana Luna

FC: Wallpapers of William Morris

1: William Morris began the Arts and Crafts movement in response to his disillusionment with Victorian society. He saw society heading down a path of destruction and desperately wanted a change. Many of the traits he disliked, like mass production and low quality can be found in our society today. Philip Henderson wrote, “He rose from the sea of Victorian confusions to confront our disruptive age of sickening wars, uncontrolled technology, misused wealth, squalid cities, despoiled countryside, polluted air, befouled rivers, primitive politics, manipulative advertising widespread social and economical injustices.”(1) William Morris was born in the small town of Walthamstow in 1834 into a prosperous middle class family.(2) His father was a partner in the successful firm of Sanderson & Co., which provided Morris with a comfortable income for most of his life.(3) The family moved to Woodford Hall when Morris was six years old and purchased a large house on fifty acres. Only a fence separated the house from Epping Forest, this was the landscape that inspired William Morris for the rest of his life, and was similar to his later home at Kelmscott in Oxfordshire.(4) In 1853 Morris attended Exeter College where he met many of the people that would influence his art as well as social ideals. One was Edward Burne-Jones, life-long friend and collaborator. He learned of and adopted John Ruskin’s philosophy, which opposes poorly designed and low quality of industrial manufacture and advocates a return to artisan’s production. He believed that products produced should be hand made, high quality and affordable.(5) These growing ideal standards set the stage for the beginning of the Arts and Craft movement, from which William Morris emerged as commanding personality and inspiration. Through writing, lectures and practical examples he had lasting influence on future generations. His expansive vision became the key inspiration of the movement that spread throughout Europe and America.(6) _____ 1. Philip Henderson, William Morris: His Life, Work and Friends, (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1967),1. 2. Leonard Stoppani. William Morris and Kelmscott and Franham,(Surry: The Design Council, 1999), 7. 3. Fiona Clark. William Morris: Wallpapers and Chintzes, (Cambridge: University Printing House, 1973), 9. 4 Philip Henderson, William Morris: His Life, Work and Friends, (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1967), 4. 5 Paul Thompson. The Work of William Morris (New York: The Viking Press, 1967) 85. 6. Oliver Fairclough and Emmeline Leary. William Morris and Morris and Co (London: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1973) 16.

2: The Arts and Craft movement was a product of the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution was preceded by a Utopian vision that would allow humans to be intellectuals while machines did all the work. The rapid development of machines created a sudden increase in production and products available in the market. The sudden increase in production created a need for more workers that led to a vast increase in population. Two thirds of rural people, many who worked in the cottage industry, lost their jobs and had to move to into cities to find work. Birmingham, England had a population of 9000 before the Industrial Revolution and 300,000 after. Towns grew up with frightening rapidity and even bigger production was demanded with no attention given to refining all the new innovations.(7) At this time Victorian society was greatly stratified. Gentlewomen had an education but they couldn't find work because of their status. No one would hire them so they had to become governesses, prostitutes or factory workers. Work was bleaker than ever before in European history with terrible working conditions, hours and no child labor laws. Morris was extremely critical, more so than his peers. He described society as hateful, ugly, silly and wrong.(8) And rightly so, as working hours were between twelve and fourteen hours every day and the doors and windows were locked to prevent the workers from leaving.(9) The unfortunate result was horrible working conditions, the separation of the designer and maker, and the use of quick, cheap materials. Between the worker who did not understand design and the designer who had no understanding of the execution, the situation became hopeless. Businessmen came up with designs based on the motto, “Will it sell?” After a year general knowledge of processes began to fade as people acquired the skills to run the machines.(10) The market became flooded with low quality products as companies competed to make more products available at a cheaper price. With wallpaper, the quickest way to print fabric was roller printing. This process damaged the fabric and often the layers of color did not line up. This was common practice with all manufacturers by the mid nineteenth century.(11) The design, on a metal roller, no longer needed the hand of the worker. ______ 7. Nikolaus Pevsner. Pioneers of Modern Design (London: William Clowes Limited, 1975) 45. 8. Leonard Stoppani. William Morris and Kelmscott and Franham (Surry: The Design Council, 1999), 17. 9. Nikolaus Pevsner. Pioneers of Modern Design (London: William Clowes Limited, 1975) 45. 10. John W. Mackail. The Life of William Morris (New York: Benjamin Blom, Inc. 1968) 50. 11. Linda Parry. William Morris Textiles (New York: Viking Press, 1983) 36.

3: The Great Exhibition held at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851 was a catalyst for the Arts and Craft movement. William Morris along with others was dismayed and disgusted by the mass produced exhibits, which seemed devoid of any soul and design.(12) The Arts and Craft movement sought to change Victorian mass production and the lives of those it affected. The movement sought to redefine the role of art and craftsmanship, worked to restore dignity to labor, create better opportunities for women and worked to change many social standards.(13) Morris’ working principle was: That thing which I understand by real art is the expression by man of his pleasure in labor. I do not believe he can be happy in his labor without expressing that happiness; and especially this is so when he is at work at anything in which he specially excels. More universally, however it points to a quality that is hard to find but it undeniably there in all great work, whether it be a painting, a pot, roll of wallpaper or fine tapestry – an inherent quality that derives from the pride, expertise and creative freedom of its maker.(14) The Arts and Crafts practitioners truly believed that everyone‘s quality of life would be improved if only integrity could be restored to objects in daily use.(15) The Arts and Craft Movement strove towards five major ideals. First and foremost was good craftsmanship. The artist should embrace technique and materials as well as hone their skills in craft until there was an equal combination of these talents. This was a direct rebuttal to the Academy, an institution that had an extremely structured view of art as well as what media should be used. The Academy, controlled by cliques of the upper class, was very selective when it came to training new artists and deciding which artists would have shows. Morris felt craftsmanship was valid in any medium. Second, everything made must have a fitness of purpose. One of the showpieces at the Exhibition of 1851 was a decorative toilet, shaped like a ship, which no one could use. The art historian Nikolaus Pevsner said the exhibits showed “ignorance of that basic need in creating patterns, the integrity of the surface.” (16) _____ 12.. Pamela Todd. Arts and Crafts Companion (London: Palazzo Editions Ltd, 2004) 12. 13.. Pamela Todd. Arts and Crafts Companion (London: Palazzo Editions Ltd, 2004)11. 14. Oliver Fairclough and Emmeline Leary. William Morris and Morris and Co (London: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1973) 15. 15. Pamela Todd. Arts and Crafts Companion (London: Palazzo Editions Ltd, 2004) 12. 16. Nikolaus Pevsner. Pioneers of Modern Design (London: William Clowes Limited, 1975) 46.

4: Morris believed to achieve top quality the designer needed to fully understand materials, how they would best serve the purpose, and which were most appropriate and satisfying.(17) Morris took the time to study the material he was working with, finding pleasure in its limitations and learning how to work with them. The quality of the material and technique of manufacture determined how design should be created.(18) Third, good design, planned and fitting was absolutely essential to everything created. Good design was associated with good education. This idea also went against common Victorian taste as many Victorian houses were over designed with patterns on every wall and furniture overcrowding the room. Fourth, the designer and the maker should be reunited. Craft that was often despised, or seen as the labor of design, was a passion for Morris. Whether it involved the use of simple machines or the hand, all that mattered to Morris was that everything was made beautifully and skillfully.(19) Morris and many of his followers considered the machine an enemy and would only use it when absolutely necessary. The Arts and Craft movement brought a revival of artistic craftsmanship not of industrial art.(20) The fifth ideal was a renewed dignity of labor. In Morris’ commitment to finding the best way to produce beautiful wallpapers and textiles, he explored every technique and system of manufacture. He truly believed that “Real art must be made by the people and for the people, as a happiness for the maker and the user.” 21 The Arts and Craft movement attracted many who were disenchanted by rapid industrialization and its consequences, both social and aesthetic, and spread to other areas of Europe as well as the United States where it was enthusiastically embraced and adapted. Morris revolutionized the art of pattern making and altered the course of western design. His designs clearly display a reaction to both the new formalism and the old naturalism. Morris had great ambitions as a designer and manufacturer. _____ 17. Oliver Fairclough and Emmeline Leary. William Morris and Morris and Co (London: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1973) 12. 18. Nikolaus Pevsner. Pioneers of Modern Design (London: William Clowes Limited, 1975) 47 19. Oliver Fairclough and Emmeline Leary. William Morris and Morris and Co (London: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1973) 12. 20. Nikolaus Pevsner. Pioneers of Modern Design (London: William Clowes Limited, 1975) 25 21. Nikolaus Pevsner. Pioneers of Modern Design (London: William Clowes Limited, 1975) 23.

5: His desire to improve the general standard of design and production led him to experiment with domestic furnishings in ceramic tiles, glass, metalwork and all types of textiles and wallpapers.(22) Between 1862 and 1866 Morris drew three repeating patterns for wallpaper: Daisy, Trellis and Pomegranate. He attempted to print the patterns by engraving the patterns onto zinc plates. He was determined not to compromise the process for the sake of speedy production.(23) The experiment was not successful and Morris recruited the help of Jeffrey and Co., a commercial wallpaper designer from London, to teach him new methods. Jeffrey and Co. used modern distempered colors in their own production with the careful use of woodblock. This was a traditional, highly skilled and time-consuming hand process and the best results had pleasing irregularities and variations.(24) Old pattern books with drawing for wallpaper designs and samples of wallpaper show the many meticulous tests and trials of the early designs. Between 1875 and 1880, Morris focused on printed and woven textiles. For the first time he began employing outside firms to print his designs. He spent a lot of time working with Thomas Wardle, an established chemist and commissioned dyer, experimenting with vegetable dyes and his first twelve printed textile designs were block printed with vegetable dyes at Wardle’s factory.(25) The development of Morris’ patterns from medieval inspired themes to subtle, beautiful and repetitious designs of garden flowers show his fascination with nature as well as his growing confidence as a pattern designer.(26) Some of his most characteristic designs are those from the 1880’s, depicting a symmetrical and repeating pattern of wild animals and birds.(27) Morris believed that beautiful wallpaper required honest relations between manufacturers and workers. Honestly required pleasant and sociable work place with decent wage and respects the individual craftsman. He was painfully aware of how his own business fell short of his own standards.(28) But he was determined not to compromise simply to speed up production. His success as a designer can be attributed to this thoroughness. He studied modern and ancient techniques associated with textiles so that he might fully understand both the benefits and limitations.(29) ______ 22. .Oliver Fairclough and Emmeline Leary. William Morris and Morris and Co (London: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1973) 4. 23. Oliver Fairclough and Emmeline Leary. William Morris and Morris and Co (London: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1973) 24. 24. Oliver Fairclough and Emmeline Leary. William Morris and Morris and Co (London: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1973) 25. 25. Oliver Fairclough and Emmeline Leary. William Morris and Morris and Co (London: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1973) 5. 26. Pamela Todd. Arts and Crafts Companion (London: Palazzo Editions Ltd, 2004) 204. 27. Linda Parry. William Morris Textiles (New York: Viking Press, 1983) 36. 28. Oliver Fairclough and Emmeline Leary. William Morris and Morris and Co (London: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1973) 47 29. Linda Parry. William Morris Textiles (New York: Viking Press, 1983) 10

6: Ultimately Morris’ patterns survive generations after generations because he had the ability to communicate his ideal vision of the beauty of nature in a world overflowing with machines and cheap products. Much like the world of today we find ourselves in the same situation Morris found himself. Instead of the Industrial Revolution we are in a technological revolution. With our lives wrapped up in computers, cell phones and televisions, we tend only to focus on what is in front of our face. The business of products being made as quickly and as cheaply as possible continues to this day. Adriana Luna

7: Bibliography Clark, Fiona. William Morris: Wallpapers and Chintzes. Cambridge: University Printing House, 1973 Fairclough, Oliver and Emmeline Leary. William Morris and Morris and Co. London: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1981 Henderson, Philip. William Morris: His Life, Work and Friends. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1967 Mackail, John W. The Life of William Morris. New York: Benjamin Blom, Inc., 1968 Parry, Linda. William Morris Textiles. New York: Viking Press, 1983 Pevsner, Nikolaus. Pioneers of Modern Design. London: William Clowes Limited, 1975 Stoppani, Leonard. William Morris Kelmscott and Franham. Surrey: The Design Council, 1981 Thompson, Paul. The Work of William Morris. New York: The Viking Press, 1967 Todd, Pamela. The Arts and Crafts Companion. London: Palazzo Editions Ltd, 2004

8: Pomegranate, 1862

9: Larkspur, 1872 Larkspur Detail, 1872

10: Tulip and Willow, 1873 | Tulip and Willow Design, 1873

11: Acanthus Design, 1875 | Acanthus Scroll, 1875

12: Marigold, 1876 | Marigold Detail, 1876

13: Honeysuckle Color Detail Honeysuckle Color Detail Honeysuckle I, 1876

14: Pimpernel, 1876 | Pimpernel Detail, 1876

15: Chrysanthemums Green, 1877 | Chrysanthemum Yellow, 1877

16: Bird and Vine, 1878 Bird and Vine Detail, 1878 | Acorn, 1879 Acorn Detail, 1879

17: Sunflower, 1879 | Bird and Anemone, 1879 Bird and Anemone Detail, 1879

18: Strawberry Thief Detail, 1883 Strawberry Thief, 1883

19: Designs for Wallpaper images of Wallpaper from Historicstyle.com Images of Designs from Goggle.com

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  • Title: Wallpapers of William Morris
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