Back in January, I wrote about the Pre-Raphaelites.
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood is one of my favorite groups of painters, mostly because of the way in which they depict ideal beauty. Long, flowing wavy hair, big doe eyes, and a natural glow – I don’t think this could ever be considered anything other than beautiful. So many Pre-Raphaaelite paintings depict gorgeous woman sitting in nature in billowing gowns. The dresses are made of diaphanous fabrics with beautiful floral patterns.
Boreas by John William Waterhouse
William Morris (1834 – 1896) was a textile designer that was affiliated with the Pre-Raphaelites. He created the most beautiful and intricate floral textile patterns. Really, Morris was more than a textile designer. He wrote poetry and philosophy; drew and painted; and also did interior design. I just think he was particularly gifted at creating beautiful, complex patterns for fabrics.
Morris was influenced by medieval art, particularly stained glass windows, tapestries, and murals. He started to seriously study medieval architecture in 1855. He inherited a large fortune, and took a walking tour through Northern France. He spent a lot of time observing and sketching Gothic cathedrals there.
Fruit by William Morris.
The intricately carved doorways, the stained glass windows, and tapestries – these all created within Morris the desire to revive hand craftsmanship. He believed that art suffered under the Industrial Revolution. In 1861, he established the Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Company. This was a commercial venture to encourage a revival of hand crafts and interior design. (And a major contribution to the Arts and Crafts movement in England.)
Pimpernel by William Morris.
So what exactly does this mean for all of these beautiful textile designs and wall paper patterns? Well, Morris and other artists would first draw and paint the elaborate patterns on paper. These designs, once finalized, would be carved into a block of wood for printing. There are a few unfinished drawings below that are great examples of what I’m talking about:
William Morris. Windrush, 1883-4. Image courtesy of The Textile Blog
Tapestries were created with a similar method. The sketches for a tapestry are called cartoons. They must be drawn to size, and placed underneath the loom so that the weavers can follow the patterns.
Drawing for block-printed fabric Tulip and Willow by William Morris, 1873. Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Morris died at age 62, of what some believed to be exhaustion. He was so prolific, and worked tirelessly on his many passions. Morris really believed in what he did. He so beautifully stated:
“My work is the embodiment of dreams.”
Morris & Co
. still operates today, and many of the classic textile and wall paper patterns are available for purchase. You, too, can order yardage and make a dress to look like a Pre-Raphaelite painting. I know I’ll be saving my pennies to do that!