Visiting with William Morris

Today we went to visit the home of William Morris, whose Pre-Raphaelite friends often came calling there in the 1860’s. While Morris was dreaming up his marvelous wallpaper designs, they were put to work decorating the new home.

Morris was deeply influenced by Medievalism and the Neo-Gothic, and his friend Philip Webb incorporated those references into Red House, an early example of what came to be known as the Arts and Crafts movement.

Morris chose his friends well. They included the Pre-Raphaelite painters Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. When he would ask for their help in painting a wall, they didn’t just pick up a roller and lay on some eggshell finish. No, they picked up brushes and created murals and decorative touches in their famous icon styles. Many remain and some are in the process of being restored, hidden behind the eggshell finishes of later generations.

Like most National Trust homes we have visited, this one has a tea room and gift shop among the outbuildings. The estate is now a part of a much larger London, rather than in the country. But it is a walled oasis that offers a glimpse into the creative energy of this group, and makes one long for William Morris wallpaper in every room.

The rest of our day was spent having lunch and idling in front of the fire in our wonderful friends’ home nearby. They very generously presented us to some of their dearest friends, resulting in an evening of riotous conversation, wonderful food, and devastingly rich and delicious sticky toffee pudding along with lemon cheese cake.

We are wonderfully sated with both food and art. (Till tomorrow.)


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