24th March 2016
If you’ve been on Google today, you might have seen a few of the Google Doodles which are celebrating William Morris. Now, you might have noticed that we think he’s pretty great all year round, but since it’s his birthday, and we’ve seen articles discussing who he is and why his legacy lives on, we thought we’d tell you a bit about him!
Morris was born in Walthamstow on March 24th, 1834. He became a textile designer and artist, a writer, poet and a socialist who was both heavily involved and influential in the English Arts and Crafts movement, and with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
Originally, after being educated at Oxford, he trained as an architect, which we have spoken about in past blogs, however he was highly interested in the arts, and, after being influenced by some of the big names in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood including Rossetti became more involved in the arts. Together with these friends, he created art that has stood the test of time, today many of the stain glass windows they designed remain in England’s churches, St James’ Palace in London being one of their first commissions; if you research into what they created together, their work is vast and rather beautiful.
He married Jane Burden in 1859, who modelled in many of the Pre-Raphaelites art work, she was an unconventional beauty, but became one of their favourite models. Philip Webb, Morris’ friend, was commissioned to build them a house on some land he had bought in Kent, which at that time was a rural area (today, Bexleyheath is a suburb of London.) If you’ve ever visited Red House, you’ll know Webb did a great job of creating the home Morris envisioned; a modern home which would be ‘medieval in spirit.’ He furnished the house himself, a visit will show you the Morris’ wallpaper and designs throughout the home. He created these with the help of a few friends, since he was particular in what he wanted and felt he couldn’t find that anywhere, from the success of this, a business was born; Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. This company produced a range of domestic furniture and wallpaper (again, because Morris couldn’t find any he liked enough to use in his home.)
If you’ve been looking into Morris today, curious about what today’s Google Doodle is, you might have caught that he was also a rather successful writer and poet along with his artistic talents. Quite frankly, we don’t know how he juggled so many talents at once, all with such success!
He founded SPAB, something that is still running today, which was the ‘Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings’ in 1877; which was a response to the destruction of original features of historical buildings in the name of ‘restoration.’ We have him to thank then, that so many historic buildings remain today in such a good and true construction- public and professional restorers are today taught by SPAG how to correctly restore historic buildings.
His life was much more than a handful of accomplishments written in a blog or on a news site for the day, in his lifetime he accomplished a great deal, and even more remarkably- the things he did over 100 years ago, remain today and still affect us now. The fact his designs are still being printed, bought and loved today as much as ever, show what a great and imaginative artist he was. If you fancy learning more, have a look back at our past blogs to read more about his life and those of his friends.
Happy Birthday William Morris! What is your favourite design of his? Ours (right now!) is his Willow Bough design- in blue or green, we can’t decide!