Monday, June 9, 2014

Order, pattern, & William Morris 1834-1896

The most famous 19C English pattern & craft devotee was William Morris (1834-1896), who believed that art & society are inextricably linked.

1876 Pimpernel

Art for Morris meant not only the fine arts of painting & sculpture but "that great body of art by means of which men have at all times ... striven to beautify the familiar matter of everyday life."

1885 Fritillary

He believed that such art arose from a basic human instinct to create, & was "a joy to the maker & user alike" which satisfied personal creative talent & enriched society as a whole.

1873 Acanthus Wallpaper

But the traditions upon which such art rested - the skills of the artist-craftsman, which Morris saw exemplified in medieval workshop practice & the guild system - had been eroded.

1874 Larkspur Wallpaper, polychrome version

Since the Renaissance, the concept of the artist as a unique & special genius had led to a diminution in status of the craftsman & an inevitable division between the fine & decorative arts.

1881 St. James

This distinction had a particularly adverse effect on applied art, especially during the 18th-century, when the rise of an affluent middle class led to an increased demand for furniture & furnishings. In 1861, William Morris founded the decorative arts firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co to undertake carving, stained glass, metal-work, paper-hangings, chintzes (printed fabrics), & carpets.

1876 Chrysanthemum Wallpaper

Morris revived old crafts & traditions, often immersing himself in historical texts or seeking out craftsmen from whom he could learn dying arts. The company's offerings soon extended to include, besides painted windows and mural decoration; furniture; metal & glass wares; cloth & paper wall-hangings; embroideries; jewelery; woven & knotted carpets; silk damasks; & tapestries.