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Jane Morris; model, wife and muse.

8th March 2016

Born Jane Burden, she grew up to embody the Pre-Raphelite ideal of beauty and became a model to many famous artists- including her husband William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. She grew up in Oxford, the daughter of Robert Burden- a stableman, and Ann Maizey- a laundress and therefore grew up having quite a poor childhood, she had little education herself and if she had not gotten involved with the artists, she probably would have followed her mother into the domestic service industry.

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Instead, in 1857, along with her sister Elizabeth she visited the Drury Lane Theatre Company in Oxford; here, Edward Burne-Jones and Rossetti noticed her seated in the gallery below them and approached her to ask her to model for them. At first she was reluctant to accept the proposal, she did not know these men and was therefore wary, she didn’t even show up to the scheduled time Rossetti was meant to paint her for his mural; it was only when she by chance bumped into Burne-Jones that she agreed and was thereafter catapulted to become an iconic face of the Pre-Raphealite art movement. Over the years, Rossetti became obsessed with painting Jane; much of his artwork that you can see today uses Jane as his model.

Morris met Jane when he used her as a model for his painting of Queen Guinevere (also known as La Belle Iseult,) during this period, he fell in love with her and proposed, she agreed however by her own admission, she was not in love with him. In a rather sweet gesture, it has been said Morris wrote on the back of the Guinevere painting, “I cannot paint you, but I love you.” Guinevere, in perhaps a bitter irony was also famously beautiful; and famously unfaithful. Rossetti was already engaged to Lizzie Siddal at this time and, despite probably being in love with him from the get go, she agreed to marry Morris. After her engagement, her education was focused on as she needed to be privately educated to become a rich gentleman’s wife. She had natural intelligence and was able to learn French and Italian and also learnt to play the piano. Her manners were also honed as she improved her class, and her speech more refined. Perhaps taking inspiration from her husband, she became quite the talented needle woman as she created beautiful embroideries.

La Belle Iseult 1858 William Morris 1834-1896 Bequeathed by Miss May Morris 1939 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N04999

La Belle Iseult 1858 William Morris 1834-1896 Bequeathed by Miss May Morris 1939

The couple had two daughters together- Jenny, born in 1861, and May born in 1862, the couple lived in Red House in Kent- a property Morris had built and he decorated, this remains as a beautiful National Trust property which is well worth a visit; the decorations he used in this house led to the Arts and Crafts movement. Later they moved to Kelmscott House which is now home the William Morris Society in the basement and coach house!

Morris went to Iceland in 1871, reportedly to leave his wife and his friend Rossetti to their affair as he found it too painful to watch; despite having invited Rossetti to live with them both in Kelmscott to keep the affair private. Once simply his favourite muse, once Rossetti’s wife died, the two seem to have developed a closer relationship which, on some level continued until his death in 1882. Of a Victorian marriage, it is not that surprising Jane married not for love but for class, this was done regularly and as a girl from a poor background, made financial sense. The relationship between Jane and Gabriel relationship did suffer due to his dependancy on chloral hydrate, a drug taken for insomnia, which she distanced herself from him due to. If you view his artistic impressions of Jane (of which there are many to choose from- even mythological roles he cast her in from Pandora to Proserpine,) she always has a sombre brooding face, which some have debated could be due to Rossetti’s own troubled soul, regardless, his artwork of Jane ensures her face is iconic of the ideal beauty of Pre-Raphaelite womanhood.

After Rossetti’s death, she had an affair with Wilfred Scawen Blunt; a poet and political activist that carried on until 1894. This was to be her last love, following the ending of the affair, her husband fell ill, and she cared for him until his death, after which she remained alone for the remainder of her life. She died 16 years after Morris, peacefully in her bed, aged 75.

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Jane sits second from the right, in between her daughters Jenny and May, and in front of her husband, Morris. Photo from the National Portrait Gallery.

 

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Bertie’s been loving Bridgerton and thought he’d pose with the wisteria wearing his Daisy cravat 😉
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When the audio accurately sums up how you feel about a design 🫶🏻 Beautiful Sweet Briar was first designed in 1912, we love the sweet little pink flowers in the climbing rose stems 🌹 This licensed Morris design is now back in stock, let us know if you’d like a sample! ✨
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Our William Morris Willow Bough green placemats are now back in stock! ✨ They’re a beautiful addition to the table for every meal time 🫶🏻
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🌷 William Morris month day 30 🌷 As we come near the end of Morris month, we’re celebrating with a fabric stack, full of beautiful licensed designs, which is your fave? 🌿 “Remember that a pattern is either right or wrong. It cannot be forgiven for blundering, as a picture may be which has otherwise great qualities in it. It is with a pattern as with a fortress, it is no stronger than its weakest point.”- William Morris 🤍 
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🐭 William Morris month day 29 🐭 We’ve been loving William Morris month to celebrate Morris’s birthday month, spreading his floral magic by posting everyday - have you discovered a new favourite design of his this month? 🌿 We absolutely love these little mice and the banner by @mini_and_bob - aren’t they so lovely! 🐭🤍
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🌷 William Morris Month Day 26 🌷 Absolutely loving a spring time floral on the table right now, especially when paired with an Easter craft or two! 🤍
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🌿 William Morris Month Day 25 🌿 Florals on florals on florals; all of the William Morris florals just look so beautiful together and, as Morris said himself, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” 🌷
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🐥 William Morris Month Day 23 🐥 Loving the sunshine this week for springtime 🌿 We absolutely love Willow Bough on the table in the sunshine paired with spring blooms 🌷
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🌷 William Morris Month Day 22🌷 A themed table is always our favourite, we’ve been loving setting the table lately with an Easter theme- especially when it means we can eat the eggs after! 🐣✨ 
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🌿 William Morris Day 20 🌿 William Morris fact of the day; did you know he founded the Kelmscott Press? 🖋️ He wrote of the venture – “Here is a new craft to conquer and to perfect.” Printing began at the press in Spring 1891 🪴 He designed multiple fonts including “Golden” Roman typeface and “Troy” Gothic type along with “Chaucer” and he worked to create beautiful books in regards to their designs which took into account their type, image and decorative elements – you can see beautiful examples of what he achieved today if you do a quick search on the Kelmscott Press- it’s well worth a Google! 🌷
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🌷 William Morris Month Day 19🌷 Happy first day of spring everyone! 🪴 We celebrated in our favourite way; coffee and cake of course! 🍰 Now we love florals all year round of course, but especially love adding in even more this time of year to reflect the blooms in the garden 🌷 What’s your favourite Morris design this time of year? 🌿
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📝 William Morris Month Day 18 📝 Did you know that as well as being an incredible designer, William Morris was also a brilliant writer and poet; have you read any of his writing? What’s your favourite quote? 🌷🌿
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☀️ William Morris Month Day 17 ☀️ The sunshine today has made us feel so excited for spring, it’s almost officially here! 🪴 This William Morris bunting is the dreamiest backdrop to all the spring summer days in the garden, it’s by @ellejoycreations - isn’t it fabulous!🌷
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