William Morris, English poet, artist, socialist reformer, and innovator in the Arts and Crafts
Movement. He was born in Walthamstow, then a village, and moved to a
grand residence there called Water House at the age of 14 - this has
since become the William Morris Gallery. He studied at Oxford with the
intention of becoming a clergyman, but while there he met Edward Coley
Burne-Jones, also studying for the church, and they both began to turn
towards art. They were persuaded by Rossetti to give up the studies
and become artists. Morris did a year in architectural practice of G.
E. Street, and then turned to painting. However, he soon found that
his metier was design.
The cooperative attempt to decorate his new house (the Red House,
built by Philip Webb) at Bexleyheath, south east of London, lead to
the setting up of the firm Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co. The
partners were Morris, Burne-Jones, Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown, Philip
Webb, Charles Faulkner, and Peter Paul Marshall, a surveyor. The firm
was set up as a 'company of Fine Art Workmen', designing and producing
(or at least supervising the production of) furniture, wallpaper,
murals, tapestry work, stained glass windows, metalwork, tapestries,
and smaller works such as tiles and embroidery. It started in 8 Lion
Square, London, where there was sufficient space for workshops,
showrooms, and a kiln in the basement for tile production. The firm
later became simply Morris and Co. when Morris - always blessed with a
private income - bought out the other partners.
Morris's wallpapers were his best-known output, with complex designs
incorporating plants, flowers and birds. Morris married Jane Burden, a
beautiful model who appears in many Pre-Raphaelite paintings (it is
she who sat for nearly all Rossetti's later works). Jane, together
with her sister Bessie, did...