Who knew that wallpaper is so interesting?
I headed over to The Art of Wallpaper – Morris & Co. exhibition at Dovecot Studios with the assumption I would be there for all of twenty minutes. I was wrong. This surprisingly wonderful exhibition had my full attention for over an hour.
The exhibition walks you through ornate French designs to elaborate metallic-stitch embroidered wallpapers. From Japanese leather pieces through to (the reason I went) works by William Morris.
I studied Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement for a high school art project back in the day and was hit with a wave of pleasant nostalgia.
‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be beautiful or believe to be useful.’
William Morris was an artist, designer and craftsman, and was revolutionary in his pursuit for beauty and creativity. Raised in, and clearly influenced by, an idyllic English countryside surrounded by nature in its entirety.
In his early career years he trained as an architect with the Gothic-Revival architect George Edmund Street whilst forming close friendships with Pre-Raphaelite artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones. It was only befitting that Morris became one of the main catalysts and founders of the Arts and Crafts Movement in 1861 which challenged the mundane of the Industrial Revolution by encouraging aesthetic craftsmanship and creative skilled labour rather than embracing the monotony of mass machine production. There was much criticism for the ‘manufactured’ object by architect Augustus Pugin and critic/writer John Ruskin:
“…a determined sacrifice of such convenience or beauty, or cheapness as is to be got only by the degradation of the workman…”
This began a chain reaction to change the face of interior décor through ornate tapestries, fabrics, upholstery and wallpaper with nature and decorative art as its core values.
The Art of Wallpaper exhibition at Dovecot Studios is beautifully curated by Mary Schoeser, and aims to share Morris’ journey with us. The exhibition includes some of the most beautiful wallpaper designs I’ve ever seen, from designers such as Owen Jones, C.F.A Voysey and Pugin himself.
Morris & Co’s intricately designed wallpaper and fabrics are still a very much-loved interior option for many and can be found in the likes of John Lewis. Whilst I wouldn’t personally choose them to style my home, I have gained a vast appreciation and understanding for the desire and need to surround oneself with nothing but beauty, for as John Keats said:
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all. Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
William Morris, Chrysanthemum
Morris & Co Stamp
William Morris Logbook (detail) 1864
The Art of Wallpaper Exhibition, Dovecot Studios
Inspired by this wonderful exhibition, I’ve decided to take my own Mexican art project a step further and design a Mexican inspired wallpaper! Watch this space!