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Morris was born in Walthamstow, east London in The financial success of his broker father gave Morris a privileged childhood in Woodford Hall a country house in Essex , as well as an inheritance large enough to mean he would never need to earn an income. Time spent exploring local parkland, forest and churches, and an enthusiasm for the stories of Walter Scott, helped Morris develop an early affinity with landscape, buildings and historical romance. He also had precociously strong opinions on design. On a family trip to London in , Morris then aged 16 demonstrated his loyalty to craft principles by refusing to enter the Great Exhibition — which championed Machine Age design — on the grounds of taste.
After school, Morris went to Oxford University to study for the Church. It was there that he met Edward Burne-Jones, who was to become one of the era's most famous painters, and Morris's life-long friend. Burne-Jones introduced him to a group of students who became known as 'The Set' or 'The Brotherhood', and who enjoyed romantic stories of medieval chivalry and self-sacrifice. Belonging to this group gave Morris an awareness of the deep divisions in contemporary society, and sparked his interest in trying to create an alternative to the dehumanising industrial systems that produced poor-quality, 'unnatural' objects.
In , Morris and Burne-Jones went on an architectural tour of northern France that made both men realise that they were more committed to art than the Church. Morris showed little talent for architecture and spent most of his time setting up Oxford and Cambridge Magazine , a vehicle both for his own writing and that of other members of The Brotherhood. Morris left Street's office after only eight months, to begin a career as an artist. Burne-Jones's connection with the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti — a central figure in the Pre-Raphaelite group — soon led to Morris working with Rossetti as part of a team painting murals at the Oxford Union.
While working in Oxford Morris had a chance meeting with a local stableman's daughter, Jane Burden. Consciously flouting the rules of class, Morris married Jane in and her striking looks were to make her a model of idealised beauty for members of the Pre-Raphaelite group for the next 30 years.
Morris commissioned architect Philip Webb — whom he had met during his time at Street's — to design and build a home for himself and his wife in rural Kent. In part, Morris wanted to realise the idea of a craft-based artistic community that he and Burne-Jones had been talking about since they were students. The result was Red House, a property that would be 'medieval in spirit' and, eventually, able to accommodate more than one family. Morris and Jane moved into Red House in and, unhappy with what was on offer commercially, spent the next two years furnishing and decorating the interior with help from members of their artistic circle.
Huge murals and hand-embroidered fabrics decorated the walls, creating the feel of a historical manor house. Everything was to be crated by hand, a principle that set the company firmly against the mainstream focus on industrialised 'progress'. Although in its first few years the company didn't make much money, it did win a series of commissions to decorate newly built churches, and became well known for work in stained glass. Morris had always wanted the firm to be based at Red House but the practical restrictions of a small, rural workshop as well as the death of Burne-Jones's young son meant that the idea of a medieval-style craft-based community was abandoned.
Morris sold Red House in and the family moved back to London.
- Iceland and socialism.
- Lasst uns froh und munter sein?
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No, the ultimate example of Morris's conviction that perfectionism of design and craftsmanship should be available to everyone. The most emotional passages in News from Nowhere are those about the natural beauty of the Earth. He viewed with desperation the speed with which Britain was becoming vulgarised and uglified. Garden cities developed in defiance of status-symbol architecture. The first of these was Letchworth, founded in by Ebenezer Howard.
William Morris Paper Placemats (English, Spanish and French Edition)
Garden cities were utopian in concept, aiming for "joyous union" of town and country. They were socially egalitarian. They were anti-snobbery and anti-luxury. They allowed space for the things that really mattered: the life of the mind and human creativity. Morris, himself a craftsman of multiple skills, had watched with dismay the erosion of handcraftmanship in the ruthlessly exploitative industrial expansion of lateth-century Britain. The sculptor, letter-cutter and consummate type-designer Eric Gill was certainly the closest 20th-century counterpart to Morris both in the breadth of his creative skills and the fierceness of his critique of industrial society.
Education and early career
To Gill, Morris was "that most manly of great man, as sensitive and passionate as he was fearless and hot-tempered". Visions of Nowhere were still proving seductive in the midth century. Many followers of Morris tried creating their own versions. The house was carefully restored following the principles that Morris first established in the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. Workshops were opened, employing local labour. Visitors to Dartington frequently described it in Morrisian terms as an "earthly paradise".
What a perfect setting for a utopian novel Dartington would make.
Her father was William Collins Whitney, the American diplomat-tycoon. My favourite section of the exhibition, and the one that I think is most full of surprises, is the Festival of Britain.
Books by Williams Morris Published by Other Publishers
At first sight, Morris and the festival might seem like a contradiction in terms. The South Bank exhibition was modernist in tenor, a paean to British technological achievement. Where is the aesthetic meeting point between Morris and the Skylon, unless one can find it in the soaring beauty of a gothicist church spire? Back in the s, Morris had looked forward to a rebirth of art as "the spontaneous expression of the pleasure of life innate in the whole people".
The South Bank exhibition was visited by 8. This was art for the people on a considerable scale. And the parallels were emphasised by the fact that the fesival, like the final visionary scene in News from Nowhere , took place along the banks of the River Thames. This was an era in which there were a myriad personal connections. For Labour party politicians in the early s, Morris was still an almost living presence. The South Bank exhibition took as its theme "Britain's contribution to civilisations — past, present and future".
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The director of architecture for the festival, Hugh Casson , gathered around him an exuberant team of almost 50 architect-designers to carry out the sequence of pavilions on the hectare acre site. All the South Bank architects were under 45, trained but as yet inexperienced professionals.
These were young idealists intent on the rebuilding of a new form of society after the destructiveness of war. Postwar British modernism managed also to embrace the nation's ancient buildings. Acerbic critic Reyner Banham castigated "the so-called William Morris revival among leftwing architects", which he blamed for what he saw as the aesthetic pussy-footing of the Festival of Britain. The ravages of war had induced a newly solemn reassessment of the past. Casson was a modernist who lived with William Morris wallpaper.
Related William Morris (French Edition)
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