Thursday, January 08, 2009

Morris & Co

click photo to enlarge
I spend my life ministering to the swinish luxury of the rich."
William Morris (1834-1896), English designer, artist, writer and socialist

If you fancy a bit of linen featuring an original William Morris print, or perhaps a rug or wallpaper with his distinctive patterns and colours, say, "Chrysanthemum Minor" or "The Strawberry Thief", Liberty's of London will be delighted to sell it to you. So too will a number of up-market stores throughout Britain, because Morris' designs are still sought after by the discerning (and well-heeled). Should you doubt that the copies you have purchased are faithfully modelled on the originals you can pop into the Victoria & Albert Museum and view examples from the time of first manufacture, or look at The Green Dining Room (1866-68) that he fitted out for the museum. As the quote at the head of this piece suggests, Morris regretted that the art he created could only be afforded by people of means. His designs that are sold today continue to be expensive unless you buy the coasters, mugs, bookmarks and the like, that have appropriated his patterns and displayed them in ways that he never intended.

However, if you don't live in London, there is a way to see some of Morris & Co.'s work without it costing the earth - visit a church. From 1861 Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co (called Morris & Co from 1875) designed stained glass for houses and churches right through until their demise in the 1930s. The quality of the firm's output in this field declined after the founder's death, and was at its peak when Edward Burne-Jones worked for the company. Though not the biggest supplier of coloured glass to churches Morris' firm was undoubtedly the best, and examples are not difficult to come by. I have posted one of my favourite pieces from Brampton in Cumbria previously, and today's example is also to be found that county, this time in the church of St Paul, Irton. It depicts St Agnes (with the lamb) and St Catherine of Alexandria. The figures are beautifully drawn by Burne Jones, unmistakably his work in the Pre-Raphaelite style, and, whilst not as delicately coloured as some of his windows, nonetheless they are a pleasure to look at and an example that surpasses most of the stained glass of that period.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 43mm (86mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.5
Shutter Speed: 1/40
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On