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William Morris

William Morris

*  1834 Walthamstow
† 1896 London

William Morris was one of the founding fathers of the British Arts and Crafts movement, advocating the renewal of art and the linkage of the fine and the applied arts as practised by the medieval crafts guilds. Although William Morris began to study theology at Exeter College, Oxford, in 1853, he spent much of his time as student on reading medieval poetry as well as the writings of John Ruskin and Augustus Welby Pugin. With the painter Edward Burne-Jones and the poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris belonged to the circle known as the Pre-Raphaelites. At Burne-Jones's urging, William Morris also began to paint but soon found his vocation in the decorative and applied arts. William Morris's first project was designing the interior of his own house, the "Red House", designed by Philip Webb at Bexleyheath in 1859. In 1861 William Morris and friends founded Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co but by 1875 the business was run by William Morris alone as Morris & Co. It produced furniture, stained glass windows, utilitarian objects of metal and ceramics, wallpaper, textiles, jewelry, and the like. The Arts and Crafts movement was ultimately a backlash againt industrial mass production and the shoddy wares produced at factories. William Morris wanted to restore beauty and quality to the things that surround us in the daily lives of as many as people as possible by ensuring that everything his firm produced was meticulously handcrafted. William Morris's repudation of mechanical mass production, however, made the objects he produced so expensive that only the rich could afford them. Although he was a Socialist, William Morris failed in disseminating his original idea. Nevertheless, the crafts renewal and the aesthetics for which he stood exerted a paramount influence on European Art nouveau/Jugendstil and even shaped early Modernism. William Morris was also a prolific poet and author; his writings reflect his quest for a social utopia.