William Morris Legacy at National Portrait Gallery, London
The Victorian guru is perhaps best known today for his densely patterned, curly-leaf wallpaper.
Morris however, cannot be confined to his wallpaper designs from middle class homes in the late centuries. He was a prolific leader in so many fields, that even Tony Blair named William Morris as one of his three political heroes, in his famous ministry speech in 1997.
He was a politician, a socialist, the editor of the greatest newspaper by then, a manufacturer, a designer, an architect.
Crediting the strands of his legacy throughout the 20th-century, curator Fiona MacCarthy for taking on an entire exhibition about Morris’s life and his legacy at the National Portrait Gallery.
The show begins with a portrait of Morris, by GF Watts, together with a fine biography written by the curator. He gazes out at us with all the intensity we might expect but he does not seem very pleased to be sitting there.
The exhibition demonstrates Morris’s life under his multi-faced legacy with all type of mediums from different artists from different times: You find strands of his influence on politics, architecture, art, culture, psychology; you get to know about his attachment to the Labour Party, to his drawings of listed buildings…
You see a copy of Karl Marx – who is considered Morris’s all time favorites within a gold tooled bookbinding by Cobden-Sanderson on one side of the room. Precious jewellery made by CR Ashbee; and furnitures carved by Ernest Gimson on the other side.
All rooted under William Morris’s The Arts and Crafts movement, based on his vision of an artist’s role in the society and his responsibility of what he created - which developed in Europe and North America in the late 19th-century.
The exhibition stands out as a testament to William Morris’s power and ambition, as well as takes you back from the Victorian Era, to the late 19th and 20th century.