According to Wikipedia: “William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896) was an English textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist.” But even that seemingly incongruous list of roles barely covers the depth and breadth of influence Morris had in both the arts and politics of Victorian Britain and beyond.
Morris’s design work and business (Morris and Co) are closely associated with the Arts and Crafts movement which started in the mid-19th Century. The movement was a reaction against factory mass-production, championing artesan skills and handmade goods and taking its visual influences from the the closely related Pre-Raphaelite artists and Medieval England.
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
– William Morris
I first discovered the works of Morris when I was a child. My family were long time members of the National Trust and we were regular visitors to stately homes up and down the UK. I became a bit of an expert at spotting his distinctive prints on wallpaper, textiles and furniture.
I have even been to the William Morris Gallery hosted in his childhood home in Walthamstow. I love his use of nature as inspiration to create his iconic dreamy, intertwined patterns.
Here is a gallery of some of the designs home furnishings created by Morris and his business, including the distinctive typefaces used by the Kelmscott Press.
And if you want to learn more about Morris’s political ideas, which are closely tied to his design outlook, try this informative video: