William Morris

I just finished reading the classic and well-known book, Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.  It was on the pile of books my son is required to read this year for his English class.  Written in 1912 as a play, later adapted as the musical and film, My Fair Lady, Professor of phonetics Henry Higgins makes a bet that he can train a lower-class Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, to pass for a duchess by teaching her impeccable speech and thus giving her an appearance of gentility.   In Act Three, Eliza is introduced to Henry’s mother.  The scene takes place in Mrs. Higgins drawing-room in a flat on Chelsea Embankment.  Shaw’s writes of the room’s setting with great detail; “In the middle of the room there is a big ottoman; and this, with the carpet, the Morris wallpapers, and the Morris chintz window curtains and brocade covers of the ottoman and its cushions, supply all the ornament, and are much too handsome to be hidden by odds and ends of useless things.”  The ‘Morris’ that Shaw writes about is well-known English textile designer, artist and writer, William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896).  Morris founded a design firm in partnership with the artist Edward Burne-Jones and the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti which greatly influenced the decoration of houses and churches into the early 20th century.  Furnishing textiles were an important part of the design firm.  Morris taught himself embroidery, tapestry weaving and textile printing.  Morris had his first repeating wallpaper pattern manufactured in 1864.  Almost 150 years later, William Morris textiles and wallpaper designs remain as ever popular which is a great testament to the enduring appeal of his work.  And Morris’s golden rule, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”.  A very wise man!


2 thoughts on “William Morris

  1. Ah! Master Morris! I have long been a fan of his beautiful prints. And, in fact many fab reproductions from wrapping paper to pillow covers adorn my own home. Here here to this wise man’s philosophy! It is a lot to aspire too….beautiful and functional items only! but well worth the angst!! Bravo to you Michelle for enlightening us all! xo

  2. Have ALWAYS loved Master Morris as Debra coins him!

    Our carpet is based on his designs…remember the one we purchased over 10 yrs ago! I still love it and am a sucker for the Arts & Crafts movement which was instigated by artist and writer William Morris!!

    Did you know the movement was developed in opposition to the sorry state of the arts designed & created back in those days? They were against the treacherous conditions and manner in which art was created & produced…kind of ‘anti-industrial’.

    Their designs returned to simplicity & pure craftsmanship.

    Timeless & never tiresome! Not for this designer.

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