William Morris, probably England's most-influential Nineteenth Century designer, was born on this day in 1834. With two other members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood—artist Edward Burne-Jones and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti—William Morris started the design firm that would one day become "Morris & Co.".
Morris & Co. designed homes and churches, plus they designed and produced a wide range of decorative (and useful) home furnishings: furniture, carpeting, tapestries, ceramics, lighting, stained glass, metalwork, and jewelry. What William Morris is most-remembered for today are his beautiful and complex wall papers.
Morris's first design, "Trellis" was inspired by the climbing roses in his garden. Unfortunately, production was delayed for two years while Morris and the printer figured-out how to print it. Successive patterns took their inspiration from medieval tapestries (very Pre-Raphaelite), illuminated manuscripts, and the plants and flowers that Morris would find in his garden or on walks near his country home, Kelmscott.
Plants and flowers almost always appeared in Morris's wallpapers—and they were always stylized, never accurately represented from nature.
What was true of the Arts & Crafts Movement was true of Morris & Co.: hand-made, beautifully-crafted objects are expensive. While the designer's impulse was to bring "beauty to all," the reality was different. Only the wealthiest (and those with an avant garde taste) could afford to furnish their homes with original Morris items.
The paper shown above, by William Morris, has an "Orientalist" sensibility, very popular in the late Nineteenth Century. It evokes the flora and decorative style of Persia and the Middle East.
Read more about William Morris's wallpapers tomorrow.
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