Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant Garde: Room 6

Peacock and bird carpet c.1800s

Peacock and bird carpet c.1800s

© William Morris Gallery, London Borough of Waltham Forest


Inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites and the medieval past, William Morris established the decorative artists’ collective Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. in 1861. Rossetti, Brown, Webb and Burne-Jones were partners in this enterprise. In 1875 Morris reorganised the company under his sole direction as Morris & Co. The Firm produced tiles, furniture, embroidery, stained-glass, printed and woven textiles, carpets and tapestry for both ecclesiastical and domestic interiors, examples of which are included in this room. In 1891 Morris founded the Kelmscott Press for the production of high quality hand-printed books. Burne-Jones was the Firm’s primary figure designer and Morris the principal pattern designer. Those employed in the crafting of objects included Morris’s wife Jane and their daughter May, who was appointed Head of the Embroidery section in 1885.

Morris often revived older forms of production in protest against the cheap, mass-produced goods made possible by the industrial revolution. His first-hand experience with manufacture and production led him to embrace politics as integral to an aesthetic and creative life. In the 1880s he became a socialist, advocating that not only must the designer understand the medium and be true to its materials, but also derive pleasure from the labour involved in producing objects, as he believed had been the case in the medieval period.