William Morris Research Paper
William Morris was a poet, artist, manufacturer, and socialist during the mid to late 19th century. He was most active as a wallpaper and textile designer and later in his life a graphic designer. Morris was born March of 1834 in Walthamstow, which was near to London. He lived with his wealthy family near London and learned to read at a young age. He later attended Oxford where he met is friend, Edward Burne-Jones, who would later become one of the greatest Pre-Raphaelite artists. Morris started at Oxford thinking of becoming a clergyman, but soon joined an aesthetic circle. Morris had a great interest in medieval art and architecture, because it was art that was made by people and for people with great skill and craft instead of art that was made by mass production. After graduating and inheriting his father’s money, Morris started working as an architect. After a few years, Edward Burne-Jones influenced him to become an artist instead. Morris started as a poet and painter, but later in his life became more interested in politics, tapestries, graphic design, and textile designs. “The Arts and Crafts movement evolved as a revolt against the new age of mechanization, a Romantic effort on part of Morris and others to implement the philosophy of the influential critic John Ruskin, who stated that true art should be both beautiful and useful and should base its forms on those found in nature.” Morris and others fought to return to the simplicity, beauty, and craftsmanship that were being destroyed by the process of mass production. He also became more active as a socialist, and had many writings and leadership roles involving this. La Belle Iseult was the only known and finished easel painting made by Morris. It was made in 1858 and shows his model, Jane Burden, who became his wife in 1859. Jane is modeling as Iseult standing in front of an unmade bed in a medieval room. The painting shows many rich colors, and there is great emphasis on the patterns throughout the painting. These patterns can be seen in many of Morris’s work in his tapestries. Throughout the painting Morris uses textures and patterns to make the piece feel more realistic. In the foreground he places Iseult who is standing and looking towards the left. She is not addressing the viewer and looks as though she has recently arisen from bed. In the middle ground he places an unmade bed with a dog snuggled in. In the background there is a woman musician playing for Iseult. Morris paints Iseult with illuminating skin and keeps her the main focus with her light white and pink patterned dress. There are many curtains draping from the ceiling echoing the colors in her dress. The room is full of things placing it in medieval times. This painting of Iseult is showing her mourning over her lover, Tristram, who was exiled from the court of King Mark. She was locked in the tower after attempting to kill herself. Now she has been sick almost to the point of death mourning for her lover, and this is also shown in the mood of the painting. “She stands wistfully in her small chamber, her feelings for Tristram reinforced by the springs of rosemary, symbolizing remembrance, in her crown, and the word ‘DOLOURS’ (grief) written down the side of her mirror.” The greyhound also proves the subject to be Iseult, because it is said Tristram gave her the dog and it is now used as her identifying emblem. There has been confusion on the name of this piece, and it has also been called Queen Guenevere. This is most likely because Morris wrote a poem called The Defence of Guenevere in the same year the painting was made, which is addressing the same character in the painting. Morris struggled for months on this picture and spent more time on embroidery and woodcarving. Many of the furnishings in the picture, such as the Turkish rug, the Persian embroidered cover, and the white work hangings are inspired by his actual...
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