“He found in art and nature the sources of resilience”

“…His close involvement with materials and processes had given Morris a new lease of creativity. In the ten years from 1875 to 1885 he produced at least thirty-two designs for printed fabrics, twenty-three for woven fabrics, twenty-one designs for wallpapers as well as patterns for carpets and rugs, embroideries and tapestries. Of these, the sixteen chintzes printed at Leek by Wardle are what most people consider the quintessential Morris…these chintzes of the middle 1870s are wonderfully confident, mouvemente. The patterns almost literally flow.

Morris believed that “rational growth”, or at least the hint of it, was the basis of all successful patterns…there should be a suggestion of perpetual motion, intimations of eternity: “Even where a line ends it should look as if it had plenty of capacity for more growth if it so would.” It was this philosophy, the freeing of the pattern, that makes Morris look so different from most of his contemporary fabric designers…Morris’s fluency had an obvious bearing on the sinuosities of European art nouveau from the 1880s onwards. His influence was even more essential to the British pattern designers of a later generation: C.F.A. Voysey, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Allan Walton, Edward Bowden, Lucienne Day…

From the 1870s a pervasive vegetation appears in all the products of Morris & Co…

In Morris’s wallpapers too a new fluency appears in the middle 1870s. Morris drew a distinction between a pattern for a fabric, designed to hang in folds, and the design for a pattern to be used flat on a wall. His chintzes and his wallpapers are not often interchangeable, though later manufacturers have treated them that way. But the wallpapers designed in those Leek years have the same sense of ebullience, the “natural growth” that curls and curves through Morris’s fabrics…Within each pattern there are vistas within vistas, a sense of infinite complexity and depth…a fashionably dressed young man, finding Morris occupied with painting all the dots in, asked him why this was not a job that he could delegate. Morris answered, “Do you think I am such a fool as to let another fool have the fun of doing the spotting when I have had the grind of doing the design?”.”

Fiona MacCarthy: William Morris (1994) Chapter Eleven: Leek 1875-78

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