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[BKARTS] William Morris exhibition at Yale Center for British Art
""The Beauty of Life": William Morris and the Art of Design
October 14, 2004-January 2, 2005
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT
William Morris (1834-1896) was among the most creative artists Britain has
ever produced. A man of tremendous energy, he was a revolutionary interior
designer and book printer, a staunch socialist, a famous and prolific poet,
a weaver, embroiderer, dyer, calligrapher, translator, businessman, and
architectural preservationist. He devoted his life to the decorative arts
as the head of the internationally successful firm, Morris & Company, which
he ran for over thirty years. Late in life, he established the Kelmscott
Press to produce books that were beautiful objects in their own right.
Morris defined art and beauty as integral to life itself and wrote in his
1880 lecture, The Beauty of Life, "Beauty, which is what is meant by art,
using the word in its widest sense, is, I contend, no mere accident to
human life, which people can take or leave as they choose, but a positive
necessity of life, if we are to live as nature meant us to; that is, unless
we are content to be less than men."
Organized by the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
in San Marino, California, "The Beauty of Life": William Morris and the Art
of Design presents almost 200 items from the Huntington's collection of
William Morris materials, the largest of its kind outside of the United
Kingdom. Additions have also been made from the Center's collections, and
from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the Yale University
Library's Arts of the Book Collection. Included are original designs for
stained glass, wallpaper, textiles, embroidery, tapestry, and books, as
well as correspondence, a selection of rare editions published by the
Kelmscott Press, and the manuscript for Morris's major poetic work, The
Earthly Paradise. A spectacular 18-foot tall stained glass window designed
by Morris's partner and life-long friend Edward Burne-Jones will be
featured in the Center's entrance court.
Morris founded Morris & Company in 1861 with Burne-Jones, the artists Dante
Gabriel Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown, and the architect Philip Webb.
Morris took an active role in the firm's creative enterprises, mastering
all aspects of the production and design of stained glass, wallpaper,
printed and woven textiles, and tapestry. The Huntington's collection in
particular demonstrates the design and production processes of the firm,
from pencil and watercolor sketches to the company's original Minute Book.
to showcasing Morris and his partners' genius for design, the exhibition
explores Morris's fashioning of new forms and styles based upon his passion
for the art and culture of the past, building a modern art upon medieval
foundations. Morris's idealization of a medieval model of life that
integrated creativity and labor led him to become a committed socialist,
and a selection of material related to Morris's political activities will be on
view. A final section of the exhibition is devoted to the lesser-known
activities of the firm after Morris's death until its dissolution in 1940,
represented in the work of John Henry Dearle, Morris's chosen successor as
primary designer. Morris's lifework inspired the Arts and Crafts movement
on both sides of the Atlantic and has proven lasting in its visionary
transformation of interior design into art.
A fully-illustrated companion publication, entitled "The Beauty of Life":
William Morris and the Art of Design, edited by the exhibition curator
Diane Waggoner and published by Thames & Hudson, is available in the Museum
For more information, visit the Center's web site at
<http://www.yale.edu/ycba>www.yale.edu/ycba or call 203-432-2800.
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