The William Morris Gallery has been renovated with new gallery space to accommodate the comprehensive collection of work by one of the principal creative artists and thinkers of the nineteenth century.
Born in London in 1834, Morris was a founder of the Arts and Crafts movement, supporter of the Pre-Raphaelites, a socialist pioneer, designer, craftsman and visionary.
The collection housed here is the only one in the world to represent all aspects of the artists’ work and the transformation of the building provides a unique opportunity for the visitor to become immersed in the life and works of Morris.
Almost 600 objects will now be on display across 12 galleries. Many artefacts are being shown for the first time and arranged across six major themes exploring different aspects of Morris’ life.
Amongst the exhibits is the Fretwork Chair by Mackmurdo (pictured) – the sinuous fretwork in the back of this chair causing a sensation when it was exhibited in 1885! Only five of these chairs are known to exist and the fretwork has been identified as an early precursor of Art Nouveau.
Morris inspired a new generation of artists and the gallery displays include work by the Cotswold Arts and Crafts artists, leading stained glass designer Christopher Whall, the eccentric Martin Brothers, the Century Guild and more.
With his textile design, arguably the medium for which Morris is most remembered, he insisted on a degree of abstraction, arguing that a realistic depiction of nature was ill suited to the flat surface of a wall.
The complex Chrysanthemum wallpaper (pictured) made in 1877 is one of the few Morris & Co papers to admit the influence of Japanese design, much admired in London’s fashionable circles at the time.
Snakeshead printed cotton of 1876 (pictured) is one of a number of Morris’s patterns showing an influence of Indian textiles, in both colouring and pattern.
As the business continued to grow, in 1881 Morris opened a factory in Merton Abbey – the space allowed him to print his famous patterns on a much larger scale. The continuous thump of the woodblocks was one of the most characteristic sounds of Merton Abbey.
Housed in Morris’ family home where he lived from 1848 to 1856, the eighteenth century, grade II listed building has been completely refurbished, revealing many of the original Georgian features.
The gardens have been restored using design and planting inspired by Morris and plans of the garden from the time. The drive to the house has been remodelled as a circular carriageway sweep, giving a fitting, and historically accurate approach to the house.
The William Morris Gallery and the Gardens in Walthamstow, London, the place of Morris’s birth will reopen on 2 August.
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