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Born on this day: William Morris

24th March 2018

Born on this day in 1834, there’s few artists that have had the same impact of William Morris in terms of his contribution to British arts and design. With a legacy spanning from literature and poetry to his influence on the Arts & Crafts movement and of course, his beautiful designs. Today, you might have seen his designs on the catwalks from Marc Jacobs shows to Topshop and his Morris & Co. wallpaper can be seen all over in hip cafes!

Whilst we blog about Morris and his achievements year round, today more than any other day it’s important to take the time to remember the man behind his legacy.

Born in Walthamstow, Morris was educated at Oxford and originally trained as an architect, however he felt unfulfilled in this job and his interest in the arts soon took over and he was highly influenced by some of the big names in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood – including Rossetti – and became more involved in the arts. Together, they created art and designs that have stood the test of time and are still influencing artists today which is incredible! In fact, you may have seen some of their work without even knowing as Morris & Co. (Morris’ company) were commissioned for so many of the stain glass windows in beautiful churches around England and influential buildings such as St. James’ Palace in London.

Marrying to Jane Burden in 1859, she was a Pre-Raphaelite model – an unconventional beauty, she’s one you can spot in many of the men’s work. They met in 1857 when she visited the Drury Lane Theatre Company in Oxford with her sister Elizabeth. It was actually initially Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti who noticed her, sat in the gallery below and asked her if she’d like to model for them. She was reluctant and refused – she didn’t know either of them and was wary of the two men. She even didn’t show up to her meeting with Rossetti who wanted to paint her for his mural. It was only after she bumped into Edward Burne-Jones by chance that she agreed. She wouldn’t know it yet, but she’d just agreed to be the face many would come to see as the face of the Pre-Raphaelite movement as she was the model many of the artists (especially Rossetti’s) used in their work, therefore she’s seen in many of the lasting pieces.

When he bought Red House, it was to be his families haven in the countryside, in what was at the time, in rural Kent in Bexleyheath. He commissioned his lifelong friend Philip Webb to build the house and if you visit (which we highly recommend!) then you’ll see what a marvellous job Webb did of creating the home Morris envisioned – a modern home which was ‘medieval in spirit.’ Furnishing the home himself, it was this process that led him to create his company; Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. Not being able to find furnishings that suited, he decided to create his own; the company produced a range of domestic furniture and wallpaper.

Influential as an interior designer, poet, writer, textile designer, translator and socialist activist. His life story is incredible and one that you wonder how he did it all in one lifetime! With adventures along the Seine and to Iceland, his life was much more than the designs, though he is remembered for them and their longevity!

We always keep one of his quotes in mind: “If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris.

We love it so much, we print it on some products!

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