Art Wednesday

William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896) - I am sure this is one artist you all know.  A very talented man, who was a artist, writer (poetry, fiction, and translations of ancient and medieval texts), a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and a leader in the English Arts and Craft Movement, but the reason why I have selected him today is for his wallpaper.   These are just beautiful - no other word to describe his work - the detail, the colour and brilliance - I just love these examples.

Morris founded a design firm in partnership with the artist Edward Burne-Jones, and the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti which profoundly influenced the decoration of churches and houses into the early 20th century.   He use nature to copy for his design and this can be seen in the one below  (and above). "Trellis" is believed to have been inspired by the rose trellis in the garden at Red House, Bexleyheath, where Morris spent the early years of his married life. The house was designed by his colleague and lifelong friend, the architect Phillip Webb who also drew these stylised blue birds.
By the late nineteenth century, 80% of English wallpapers contained arsenic, often in large quantities. William Morris loved green (as you can see in these examples), however the greens used were arsenic based pigments and when the wallpaper became damp (as did in English homes) the wallpaper let off a particular musty smell, resulting in arsenic poisoning.  The English did notice that the bedrooms with  wall paper did not contain any bed bugs - I wonder why!!
I just love this one "Jasmine" - it would make a beautiful fabric design in silk - curtains perhaps.
Two rooms with William Morris wallpaper
Morris taught himself embroidery, working with wool and once he had mastered the technique he trained his wife Jane and her sister Bessie plus others to execute designs to his specifications. "Embroideries of all kinds" were offered through Morris, Marshall, Faulkner  and Co. catalogues and church embroidery became and remained an important line of business for its successor companies into the twentieth century.
Like so many artists - they didn’t have happy marriages.  Morris married Jane, a striking beauty. She mixed with the Pre-Rapahaelites and posed many times for Rossetti which lead to a long affair. Divorce was unthinkable so William and Jane stayed unhappily married until Morris’s death.
Check out these brochures - you can still purchase the William Morris wallpapers and fabrics - couldn't find a price anywhere but I sure it is expensive (and I am sure they are now arsenic free): William Morris brochure

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PS Here is some trivia - by 1870 Britain was selling 30,000,000 rolls of wallpaper!!!  Can you imagine how many people were suffering from arsenic poisoning, but at least their homes looked beautiful.

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  1. Goodness, what a price to pay for beautiful wallpaper!

    They are all very beautiful though, and even though they were designed in the 1800's, some of the designs are reminiscent of medieval times!

    Thank you for sharing, Jo!

  2. I love Morris ~ & the pre~Raphelites! ♥swoon♥ Gorgeous, gorgeous colour & design. Not bad poetry either... ;)

  3. Wow, that is a lot of wallpaper being sold back in 1870!! I have to say, most wallpaper looks far too busy for my liking, but there are some quite pretty ones out there - I like the muted colours and tones best... and the not-so-busy ones!
    On a different note, some wallpapers can be really beautiful when used for paper crafts - a different and fun way to use them! :)

  4. Jo, I am embarrassed to admit I have never heard of this artist lol.

    I loved the 5th picture down, and how the cushion on the chair matches the wallpaper!

    I like this guys style though...

  5. Such beautiful wallpaper and the colours are lovely. I love Morris's style.

  6. Ah - arsenic wallpaper. Such fun, isn't it? My - ahem - favorite is the once dark red flocked paper that has faded, in the last 120 years - to bright pink, leading people to believe that the Victorians loved hot pink interiors! But, you've heard that before. :)

    Though I'm not a big Arts and Crafts person, I do enjoy Morris' stuff. I found Michelle's comment interesting, because that's exactly what he was trying to do - go back to earlier times, when things were still hand made. Unfortunately, though, in industrialized England, it was terribly hard to get people to spend the money for very expensive hand blocked paper like that which Morris made.


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