Thursday, March 28, 2013

William Morris birthdays

William Morris, aged 53

Birthdays were an occasion for Morris’s more immediate family, especially since his daughter May was born on 25 March and they often held a joint celebration. If Morris was away, he would report back on his birthday to his family. An 1878 letter to his (two) daughters shows parental kindness moderating, but not effacing, Morris’s critical eye for design detail; he thanks May for her gift of a very pretty ‘baccy pouch’ but insists that the cotton strings will need replacing with silk to avoid setting his teeth on edge when opening it. In the same year, he provided his wife Jane with a humorous sketch of the morning after his birthday dinner with his mother and (second) sister Henrietta in Much Hadham, in Hertfordshire. Rogers (his mother’s maid) had cut his hair in the presence of not only his ‘kinswomen’ but also his mother’s parrot; the latter, at least, was seemingly delighted with the entertainment and ‘mewed & barked & swore & sang at the top of his vulgar voice’.

Birthdays were also an occasion for being remembered by, and spending time with, his friends. In thanking Louisa Baldwin for ‘remembering me & my birthday’ in 1875, Morris added that he had always been a lucky man with his friends. Those friendships, however, were sometimes tested by his occasional ill-humour and quick temper (usually immediately followed by embarrassment and regret). After one especially ‘crabby’ birthday evening (1869) spent in the company of Edward Burne Jones (‘Ned’) and Charles Fairfax Murray, Morris felt obliged to write apologies to both men. Admitting that he could be ‘like a hedgehog with nastiness’, Morris craved forgiveness from Burne-Jones on the grounds that he simply could not do without him.

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema - Drawing Room, Holland Park (1887)

Forgiving Janey talk

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

bed cover

bed cover embroidered by
William Morris's daughter, May, in the Emery Walker house.
Photo: David Levene

May Morris, The Orchard, 1896, embroidered wall hanging, silk thread on silk ground

Details of May's embroidery

"Her father also appointed her as head of the embroidery department when she was only 23. I just love her free form stitches where she really 'paints' the design in simple silk stitches of chain stitch and darning stitch.."

A study for one of the couples in the background of the Blessed Damozel

A study for one of the couples in the background of the Blessed Damozel. This particular group appears in the left background of the 1875-78 version of the painting in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, comissioned by William Graham. There is also a version of the painting in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (1875-79). The work is based on a poem, 'The Blessed Damozel', by Rossetti. Rossetti is here seen to be making pencil revisions to teh back nof the male figure.


Margje Bijl

Excerpt from an email Margje Bijl received from the curator of the William Morris Gallery,
Carien Kremer: 'We would like to offer you a slot in our 2014 programme, showing the
photographs in the Discovery Lounge...It would be great to mark the commemorative year
with a contemporary take on Jane'.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Seat of a Bishop

This is fascinating, a sketch by Ned that he gave to Jane. Shows both had a sense of humour. Called The Seat of a Bishop; inspired by the Baedeker's Guide to Italy. Ned went to Italy four times (as did Jane). An inscription asks Jane not to show the sketch "to your lady friends because they would think ill of me."

How Rossetti used the Jane photographs

The painting is Reverie of 1868. The photo was taken in Rossetti's garden in London in July 1865.

Mrs Cimabue Brown

Isn't it odd, never seen this mentioned before. Reading David Rodger's book 'Rossetti' he says that George Du Maurier was no admirer of Jane and based Mrs Cimabue Brown, an ambitious hostess with 'artistic' tastes, on Jane for his cartoons in Punch. He first met Jane in 1870. 

"At the height of public interest in the Aesthetic Movement, between the opening of the Grosvenor Gallery in London at the end of the 1870s and Oscar Wilde's lecture tour of 1882, Punchran a brilliant series of caricatures by Du Maurier satirising the manners and poses of the Aesthetes."

The Blessed Damozel detail

The main model is Alexa (Wilding) but the background lovers are Jane and presumably a younger Rossetti

La Bella Mano detail (The Beautiful Hand)

Alexa with May Morris as the attendants.