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William Morris

William Morris

Walthamstow 1834 -
London 1896


William Morris was born in Walthamstow, England, in 1834. As the founder of the British "Arts and Crafts" movement, William Morris was committed to the renewal of the arts as well as the linkage of the applied and fine arts as practised by the medieval crafts guilds. While still a theology student (from 1853) at Exeter College, Oxford, William Morris was heavily involved with medieval poetry as well as the writings of John Ruskin and Augustus Welby Pugin.
At Exeter College, William Morris met the painter Edward Burne-Jones and later also the poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. It was at the latter's urging that William also began to paint but Morris soon turned to crafts. The furnishings and appointments of the "Red House", which Philip Webb designed in 1859 for William Morris in Bexleyheath, induced Morris to found Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co in 1861.
In 1875 William Morris took over the business as Morris & Co. It produced furniture, stained glass windows, utilitarian objects of metal and ceramics, wallpaper, textiles, jewelry, etc. The William Morris philosophy behind this business was to propagate his idea of art and put his ideas for social reform into practice. The "Arts and Crafts" movement was ultimately a reaction to industrial mass production and the low quality of factory-produced wares.
William Morris wanted to make aesthetically satisfying and beautifully crafted things available to as many people as possible for use in all possible areas of everyday life. William Morris' rejection of mechanical mass production, however, made his objects so expensive that only very well-off could afford to acquire them. Consequently, William Morris' original Socialist ideals were doomed to failure although the William Morris aesthetic exerted an enormous influence on "Art nouveau/Jugendstil" in Europe and even on early Modernism. William Morris was also active and prolific as a poet and writer; his writings reflect his quest for a social utopia.