Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Drawing Room, Kelmscott House, Hammersmith by E H New

The Drawing Room, Kelmscott House, Hammersmith by E H New

'Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." William Morris 'The Beauty of Life' 1880

Woodcut of the Drawing Room, Kelmscott House, Hammersmith by E H New, 1895-1900. Kelmscott House was William Morris's London house

The house of William Morris in Hammersmith

The house of William Morris in Hammersmith (engraving), Railton, Herbert (1857-1910) / Private Collection - The Bridgeman Art Library

Jane at the piano

According to the Jan Marsh video on May, this is actually Jane sitting at the piano. At some point she taught herself (or had lessons) but was considered accomplished.

May by Ned

Janey Morris in her own words

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

topaz brooch

This topaz brooch originally belonged to Jane Morris. This may have been given to her by Rossetti, who liked a bit of bling on his women.

made about 1820-30

'Arcadia' wallpaper

Specimen of 'Arcadia' wallpaper, a pattern of intertwined flowers and foliage, cream and brown; Colour woodblock print, on paper; Inscribed on the back in ink with title, number and price. 
Part of 'Volume 2', a pattern book containing 27 Morris & Co. patterns from 1862-81

We think of Morris' lovely wallpapers but here a couple designed by May for Morris & Co. She was so talented like her Father.

'Horn Poppy' wallpaper

Specimen of 'Horn Poppy' wallpaper, a design of poppy flowers and foliage; Colour woodblock print, on paper; Inscribed on the back in ink with title, number and price. 
Part of a pattern book.

designer May Morris 


Friday, October 19, 2012

La Pia 1868 - 81

A subject from Dante's Purgatorio. Begun in 1868 with Jane as the melancholic model. It wasn't finished until 1881, a year before his death. The symbols in the foreground represent her piety and include her husbands love letters from a happier time. Dante found her in purgatory because she literally pined away after her husband imprissioned her in a castle. The pile of pennants on the left seem to represent the absent cruel husband. Is Rossetti also hinting at Jane imprisioned by her marriage to William ? La Pia fingers the luxurious ring given to her husband, as Jane married for money rather than love.

The grey landscape with its flock of crows reflects in a symbolist way her suffering, but Rossetti also asked Charles Fairfax Murray to make sketches of the drear Maremma swamps (where the castle had said to be located - sw Tuscany) to introduce a note of realism to the picture. The ivy is taken from photographs by another friend Frederic Shields.

The picture was bought by Frederick Richards Leyland for a massive 800gns who hung it in his house alongside Lady Lilith and Veronica Veronese.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Collected Letters of Jane Morris - my Amazon review

Jane Morris, the wife of William Morris and the muse of Rossetti still exercises a fascination that never seems to fade. Starting as the daughter of a lowly groom in Oxford her story is so fascinating that new books retelling are produced every few years. Jan Marsh has written her definitive biography and with Frank Sharp discovered 500 letters most of which have not been published before.

In good time to coincide with the Tate exhibition (which features a number of Rossetti's paintings of her) the letters reveal a much more complex character than has often been portrayed. She helped her husband, loved and worried about her children (particularly the epileptic Jenny) and had strong views that help bring her alive as more than Rossetti's vision of her or the limp invalid who married just for the money. The extensive notes reflect new research on her and those around her and the colour plates have been well chosen.

Its hard to see how this book could be superseded and combined with Fiona MacCarthy's biographies of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones throws new light on these leading lights of the pre raphaelites and their environment.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Women's Guild of Arts

AMONG the items once owned by artist Mary Sloane and recently given to the William Morris Society are 90 glass slides, made from photographs showing medieval jewellery, textiles and embroidery artefacts, works by members of the Women's Guild of Arts , and images of the Morris family and their houses.

May Morris was foun
der and chair of the WGA and her close friend Mary Anne Sloane was its hon.secretary. The exact origin of the items isn't clear - the donation includes WGA documents and some hitherto unknown portrait photos of May probably taken in the USA - but research is in progress.

The WMS is aiming to digitise the slides in order to use the images in a WGA display, and to make them available to researchers, in order to find out more about the extensive role of women in the Arts & Crafts movement. Digitisation costs £5 sterling per slide. To sponsor slides, please contact

Oh, and another recent acquisition by the WMS is a brooch made by May - worked in gold and set with large teardrop amethysts, small green stones and what looks like an opal in the centre. May's jewellery work isn't as well known as her embroidery - the largest collection is in the V&A - so this is a very welcome addition to the Kelmscott House collection.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Blunt visit to Kelmscott - diary entry

"With his wife [WM] showed himself uniformly kind but without tenderness treating her in a certain offhand way peculiarly his own. She was a loveable and noble woman, but he knew he had never touched her heart. Yet he was observant. What had taken place between her and Rossetti he knew and had forgiven. But he had not forgotten it. ..."

Blunt diary after staying at Kelmscott

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

La Belle Iseult ~ William Morris

This was Morris' only known easel work. Under the influence of Rossetti but with its own style. But look at the odd bronze pitcher, bottom right. Anyway recent analysis shows parts like the red sleeves were overpainted. Morris abandoned the painting, calling it 'a brute' and both Rossetti and Madox Brown had a go at it. But when it was given to Madox Brown's soon in 1874 it was described as unfinished. It was eventually returned to Jane. She allowed it to be exhibited at the 1897 Morris memorial but it was called 'Queen Guenevere'.