Design – William Morris

William Morris (1834–1896) was a Victorian poet, novelist, designer and socialist closely associated with the pre-Raphaelite movement. I can’t remember when I first heard about his work, but I started becoming interested in it during my honours year, when I researched one of his contemporaries, the painter-poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Chances are that even if you’ve never heard of Morris you’ve come across some of his designs: they seem to be in vogue at the moment and are sold on all sorts of products – postcards, letter sets, mugs, notebooks, colouring books, calendars – at bookstores. If you happen to have seen them, you’ll know that they’re intricate patterns featuring natural imagery and that many of them are medieval in style. It’s hard to tell exactly how many there are, given the countless edited versions that exist online, but the Victoria and Albert Museum states that Morris created over 50 wallpapers, while other websites credit him with more than 600 textile, fabric and wallpaper designs (I’ll have to look into this some more).

Here are some of my favourite designs by Morris along with a few by J.H. Dearle that were published by Morris’s company:

strawberry-thief-1883‘Strawberry Thief’ (1883)

bluebell-columbine-claret-slash-gold-1876‘Bluebell’ (‘Columbine’) – Claret/Gold (1876)

pomegranate-fruit-1865-66‘Pomegranate’ (‘Fruit’) (1865-66)

blackthorn-designed-by-j-h-dearle-1892‘Blackthorn’ (J.H. Dearle, 1892)

garden-tulic-medway-1885‘Garden Tulip’ (‘Medway’) (1885)

wild-tulip-1884‘Wild Tulip’ (1884)

golden-lily-j-h-dearle-1899‘Golden Lily’ (J.H. Dearle, 1899)

morris-seaweed-cobalt-slash-thyme-designed-by-j-h-dearle-1901‘Morris Seaweed’ – Cobalt/Thyme (J. H. Dearle, 1901)

avon-1886‘Avon’ (1886)

evenlode-1883‘Evenlode’ (1883)

wey-ca-1883‘Wey’ (ca. 1883)

part-of-panel-of-tiles-designed-by-morris-for-membland-hall-1876Part of a tile panel designed by Morris
for Membland Hall (1876)

flowerpot-pot-of-flowers-1883‘Flowerpot’ (‘Pot of Flowers’) (1883)

kennet-1883‘Kennet’ (1883)

Images © the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and Morris & Co.


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