William Morris: Artist, Philosopher, Poet and Designer – By ciAnnait

Posted: April 26, 2012 by kinnit in Uncategorized

William Morris (1834-1896), was the single most influential designer of the nineteenth century. Morris was a political theorist, scholar, translator and publisher, an environmental campaigner, writer and poet as well as an outstanding designer. Under his direction Morris & Co. grew into a flourishing and fashionable decorating firm renowned for its wallpapers and textiles. http://www.william-morris.co.uk/

Morris was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphealite Brotherhood, together with six other artists and craftsmen. The brotherhood where  very critical of the artists of the 19th century for being servants of the industrial age. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Jmorris.htm

Pre-raphealite art

To Morris, the art of the middle ages was the golden age of craftsmanship, and this was the standard which should be pursued. This love of traditional craft, was informed by his philosophical background as a Utopian Socialist. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Morris

“Nothing should be made by man’s labour which is not worth making; or which must be made by labour degrading to the makers…this is a direct challenge to the death to the present system of labour in civilized countries. That system, which I have called competitive Commerce…” http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Jmorris.htm

Morris is most famous for his print and wallpaper designs, and his name continues to be associated with sumptuous floral prints in a manner evoking a combination of medieval imagery, Islamic repetitious prints, and art Nouveau curvy lusciousness.  http://www.theearthlyparadise.com/2009/08/william-morris-and-islamic-art.htm


Although William Morris’s design work is still reproduced his influence stretches to many of his interests, for example, his work on restoration of architecturally significant houses helped initiate the foundation of the National Trust in England. Morris’s emphatic emphasis on the master craftsman helped bring about the birth of the Arts and Crafts movement both in Britain and in America.http://e17designersmarkets.blogspot.com.au/2010/11/inspired-by-william-morris.html

The movement emphasised:

    • One cannot validly distinguish between fine and applied or decorative arts.
    • The artisan or craftsman should have the same imaginative pleasure and freedom as painters, sculptors, and architects.
    • The Industrial Revolution both greatly damaged popular taste and did much to destroy traditional craft skills.
    • Mid-nineteenth century design was by and large dreadful and artists, sculptors, designers, craftsmen, theorists, and the buying public had to work together to remedy this situation.
    • Properly designed objects should embody truth to materials — what Ruskin had called the “Lamp of Truth.” In practice this meant, for example, that furniture should use solid wood rather than veneers, and all objects from small pieces of jewelry to entire buildings should explore the intrinsic capacities of the materials from which they are made.
    • The role of the craftsman must be appreciated.http://www.victorianweb.org/art/design/craftintro.html

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