Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Thursday, August 25, 2011

William Morris and his work in the Oxford Union Debating Chamber

William Morris. Design of ¨Tulip and Willow¨. 1873. From

William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896) was an English textile designer, artist, writer, and socialist associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the English Arts and Crafts Movement. He founded a design firm in partnership with the artist Edward Burne-Jones, and the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti which profoundly influenced the decoration of churches and houses into the early 20th century. As an author, illustrator and medievalist, he is considered an important writer of the British Romantic movement, helping to establish the modern fantasy genre; and a direct influence on postwar authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien. He was also a major contributor to reviving traditional textile arts and methods of production, and one of the founders of the SPAB, now a statutory element in the preservation of historic buildings in the UK. (
The following pictures were downloaded from google images and are examples of some of Morris´ designs:

Tiles by William Morris
Trellis wall paper

Panel rug

In 1857, Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Morris, with Arthur Hughes and three companions, were allowed to paint the upper reaches of the walls of the Oxford Union Debating Chamber. A gallery runs round the oval room the walls above it pierced with windows that form ten bays. The friends filled seven of these before the enterprise was brought to a standstill by temperament and misunderstanding. William Morris pained a picture of Tristam and La Belle Isoude, whose foreground was filled with sunflowers (...)

The Recognition of Tristam by La Belle Isoude. By William Morris.
Tristam and Isolde at King Arthur´s court.

(...) while he was painting the walls of the Union, he felt the need of armour to copy and he had a helmet and a coat of ringed mail forged for him (...) Burne-Jones said the mail was very heavy to lift, but once one had put it on, the weight was balanced and not uncomfortable.
When Coventry Patmore saw the paintings in the bays, he wrote in The Saturday Review that the colour was ¨so brilliant, as to make the walls look like the margins of an illuminated manuscript¨. It reads like some dire allegory that the paintings rapidly crumbled and all but disappeared. The walls were unplastered brick and the young men, with a lack of craftsmanship of which Morris, for one, would have been incapable in after years, had not prepared the surface to take the paint; they had only whitewashed it. Today faint ghosts of Arthurian legend glimmer, almost indecipherable on a background murky and dim; but Morris´ absorbing interest in the craft of the Middle Ages, and in the matter of Arthur, took a more enduring form. 
In 1858 when he was twenty-four he produced The Defence of Guinevere and Other Poems. Of these, the most valuable are perhaps those which give the reader the benefit of Morris´s visual imagination; applied in a medieval idiom, which found immortal expression in his wallpapers with designs of sunflowers and pomegranates, his spare, beautiful furniture, the swatches of silk dyed by himself, scarlet, amethyst and gold with red lights in it.
The Mystery of King Arthur. By Elizabeth Jenkins. Chapter The Pre-Raphaelites, Tennyson, ourselves. P. 198-9

Oxford Union Debating Chamber. From
Sir Pelleas leaving the Lady Ettarde by Valentine Prinsep
William Morris by George Frederic Watts. 1870
Read more about Morris´ work inside the Oxford Union:

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