William Morris

William Morris


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William Morris, the son of a successful businessman, was born in Walthamstow, a quiet village east of London, on 24th March, 1834. After successfully investing in a copper mine, William's father was able to purchase Woodford Hall, a large estate on the edge of Epping Forest, in 1840.

Morris was educated at Marborough and Exeter College. At Oxford University Morris met Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The three men were all artists and formed a group called the Brotherhood. During this period their work was inspired by the history, ritual and architecture of the Medieval period. Morris and Burne-Jones were committed Anglicans and for a time they talked of taking part in a "crusade and holy warfare" against the art and culture of their own time.

Burne-Jones later recalled: "When I first knew Morris nothing would content him but being a monk, and getting to Rome, and then he must be an architect, and apprenticed himself to Street, and worked for two years, but when I came to London and began to paint he threw it all up, and must paint too, and then he must give it up and make poems, and then he must give it up and make window hangings and pretty things, and when he had achieved that, he must be a poet again, and then after two or three years of Earthly Paradise time, he must learn dyeing, and lived in a vat, and learned weaving, and knew all about looms, and then made more books, and learned tapestry, and then wanted to smash everything up and begin the world anew, and now it is printing he cares for, and to make wonderful rich-looking books - and all things he does splendidly - and if he lives the printing will have an end - but not I hope, before Chaucer and the Morte d'Arthur are done; then he'll do I don't know what, but every minute will be alive."

Members of the Brotherhood were influenced by the writings of the art critic, John Ruskin, who praised the art of medieval craftsmen, sculptors and carvers who he believed were free to express their creative individualism. Ruskin was also very critical of the artists of the 19th century, who he accused of being servants of the industrial age. David Meakin has argued: "A rebel against his own time, he was yet deeply of his time, deeply Victorian, and this is only one of the many fertile paradoxes that make his manifold activity so fascinating."

In 1857 Morris joined with Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti to paint frescoes for the Oxford Union. He also began writing poetry and in 1858 his book The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems was published. Morris wrote: "With the arrogance of youth, I determined to do no less than to transform the world with Beauty. If I have succeeded in some small way, if only in one small corner of the world, amongst the men and women I love, then I shall count myself blessed, and blessed, and blessed, and the work goes on."

Morris and his Pre-Raphaelite friends formed their own company of designers and decorators. As well as Burne-Jones and Rossetti, the group now included the architect Philip Webb and Ford Madox Brown. Morris, Marshall, Faulkener & Co, specialized in producing stained glass, carving, furniture, wallpaper, carpets and tapestries. The company's designs brought about a complete revolution in public taste. Their commissions included the Red House in Upton (1859), the Armoury and Tapestry Room in St. James's Palace (1866) and the Dining Room in the Victoria and Albert Museum (1867). In 1875 the partnership came to an end and Morris formed a new business called Morris & Company.

Despite the large number of commissions that he received, William Morris continued to find time to write poetry and prose. His work during this period included The Life and Death of Jason (1867), The Earthly Paradise (1868) and the Volksunga Saga (1870). In one article Morris argued: "So long as the system of competition in the production and exchange of the means of life goes on, the degradation of the arts will go on; and if that system is to last for ever, then art is doomed, and will surely die; that is to say, civilization will die."

The art critic, Patrick Conner, has argued that the writings of John Ruskin inspired artists such as Morris and Edward Burne-Jones: "Ruskin... proved an inspiration to William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, whose enthusiasm carried Pre-Raphaelite principles into many branches of the decorative arts. They inherited from Ruskin a hostility to classical and Renaissance culture which extended to the arts and design of their own time. Ruskin and his followers believed that the nineteenth century was still afflicted by a demand for mass-production... They opposed themselves to mechanized production, meaningless ornament and anonymous architecture of cast iron and plate glass."

In the 1870s Morris became upset by the aggressive foreign policy of the Conservative Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli. In began writing to newspapers and publishing pamphlets where he attacked Disraeli and supported the anti-imperialism of the Liberal Party leader, William Gladstone. However, he became disillusioned with Gladstone's Liberal Government that gained power after the 1880 General Election and by 1883 Morris had become a socialist. Morris later explained his new political philosophy: "What I mean by Socialism is a condition of society in which there should be neither rich nor poor, neither master nor master's man, neither idle nor overworked, neither brain­slack brain workers, nor heart­sick hand workers, in a word, in which all men would be living in equality of condition, and would manage their affairs unwastefully, and with the full consciousness that harm to one would mean harm to all - the realisation at last of the meaning of the word commonwealth."

Morris joined the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) and began contributing articles to its journal Justice. However, Morris was soon in dispute with the party leader, H. H. Hyndman. Morris shared Hyndman's Marxist beliefs, but objected to Hyndman's nationalism and the dictatorial methods he used to run the party.

In December, 1884, Morris left the SDF and along with Walter Crane, Eleanor Marx and Edward Aveling formed the Socialist League. Strongly influenced by the ideas of William Morris, the party published a manifesto where it advocated revolutionary international socialism. Morris was also the main contributor the the party's journal, Commonweal.

Over the next few years Morris wrote socialist pamphlets, sold socialist literature on street corners, went on speaking tours, encouraged and participated in strikes and took part in several political demonstrations. In July, 1887 Morris was arrested after a demonstration in London. Four months later he participated in what became known as Bloody Sunday, when three people were killed and 200 injured during a public meeting in Trafalgar Square. The following week, a friend, Alfred Linnell, was fatally injured during another protest demonstration and this event resulted in Morris writing, Death Song.

Morris devoted a lot of his time to political writing. This included Chants for Socialists (1883), The Pilgrims of Hope(1885) and the Dream of John Ball (1888). The following year Morris wrote one of his most important books, News from Nowhere. The book, a Utopian fantasy, tells the story of a man who falls asleep after an evening at a Socialist League meeting. He wakes in the future to find England transformed into a communist paradise where men and women are free, healthy, and equal. Money, prisons, schools and government have been abolished and the industrial squalor of England in the 1880s has disappeared. At the close of the book, the man has returned to the present, but has been inspired by what he has seen and his determined to work for a socialist future.

It has been argued by David Meakin that Morris was not a very successful politician: "Morris had little talent for politicking, and the intransigence of the Socialist League tended to cut it off from parliamentary politics. He feared and denounced the tendency for socialism to sink into compromise and palliatory reform, offensive to his total ethical vision. Only in his final years, uncompromisingly styling himself a communist, did he come to accept the educative value of local struggles, whilst always insisting that these should be catalysts for total change."

Henry Snell met Morris during this period: "It was William Morris who first made me consciously aware of the ugliness of a society which so arranged its affairs that its workers were deprived of the beauty which life should give. I remember him as a bluff, vital, and challenging personality, whose influence upon those who knew him was both marked and lasting. I knew Morris only as a humble and admiring devotee may know the master. In my mind his gifts and experience placed him among the supermen. I might have known him better if I had been less aware of his greatness." Bruce Glasier has argued: "William Morris was to my mind one of the greatest men of genius this or any other land has ever known."

Margaret McMillan was another young socialist who was impressed with Morris: "We were invited to meet William Morris at Kelmscott House. Mr. Morris received us with patient cordiality. Dressed in navy blue, and with his hair much ruffled, he looked like a sea captain receiving guests on a stormy day, but glad to see them. He wanted to hear about his Edinburgh friends, especially John Glasse, with whom he could discuss handloom weaving as well as literature or Socialism. He lighted his pipe and talked, sitting upright in a high chair. We listened to his copious, glittering talk. Morris belonged to a rich, radiant, present world. He created it. He was practical as well as impatient." W. B. Yeats has pointed out: "No man I have ever known was so well loved. He was looked up to as to some worshipped medieval king. People loved him as children are loved. I soon discovered his spontaneity and joy and made him my chief of men."

In 1891 William Morris became seriously ill with kidney disease. He continued to write on socialism and occasionally was fit enough to give speeches at public meetings. Morris political views had been influenced by the anarchist theories of Peter Kropotkin. Morris was also sympathetic to syndicalism of Tom Mann. Although Morris supported trustworthy socialist politicians such as George Lansbury and Keir Hardie, he believed that socialism would be achieved through trade union activity rather than by getting socialists elected to the House of Commons.

In his last few years of his life Morris wrote Socialism, Its Growth and Outcome (1893), Manifesto of English Socialists (1893) The Wood Beyond the World (1894) and Well at the World's End (1896).

William Morris died on 3rd October, 1896.

I will, with your leave, tell the chief things which I really I want to see changed, lest I should seem to have nothing to bid you to but destruction, the destruction of a system by some thought to have been made to last for ever. I want, then, all persons to be educated according to their capacity, not according to the amount of money which their parents happen to have. I want all persons to have manners and breeding according to their innate goodness and kindness, and not according to the amount of money which their parents happen to have. As a consequence of these two things I want to be able to talk to any of my countrymen in his own tongue freely, and feeling sure that he will be able to understand my thoughts according to his innate capacity; and I also want to be able to sit at table with a person of any occupation without a feeling of awkwardness and constraint being present between us. I want no one to have any money except as due wages for work done; and, since I feel sure that those who do the most useful work will neither ask nor get the highest wages, I believe that this change will destroy that worship of a man for the sake of his money, which everybody admits is degrading, but which very few indeed can help sharing in. I want those who do the rough work of the world - sailors, miners, ploughmen, and the like - to be treated with consideration and respect, to be paid abundant money-wages, and to have plenty of leisure. I want modern science, which I believe to be capable of overcoming all material difficulties, to turn from such preposterous follies as the invention of anthracine colours and monster cannon to the invention of machines for performing such labour as is revolting and destructive of self-respect to the men who now have to do it by hand. I want handicraftsmen proper, that is, those who make wares, to be in such a position that they may be able to refuse to make foolish and useless wares, or to make the cheap and nasty wares which are the mainstay of competitive commerce, and are indeed slave-wares, made by and for slaves. And in order that the workmen may be in this position, I want division of labour restricted within reasonable limits, and men taught to think over their work and take pleasure in it. I also want the wasteful system of middlemen restricted, so that workmen may be brought into contact with the public, who will thus learn something about their work, and so be able to give them due reward of praise for excellence.

Nothing should be made by man's labour which is not worth making; or which must be made by labour degrading to the makers. Simple as that proposition is, and obviously right as I am sure it must seem to you, you will find, when you come to consider the matter, that it is a direct challenge to the death to the present system of labour in civilized countries. That system, which I have called competitive Commerce, is distinctly a system of war; that is of waste and destruction: or you may call it gambling if you will, the point of it being that under it whatever a man gains he gains at the expense of some other man's loss. Such a system does not and cannot heed whether the matters it makes are worth making; it does not and cannot heed whether those who make them are degraded by their work: it heeds one thing and only one, namely, what it calls making a profit; which word has got to be used so conventionally that I must explain to you what it really means, to wit the plunder of the weak by the strong! Now I say of this system, that it is of its very nature destructive of Art, that is to say of the happiness of life. Whatever consideration is shown for the life of the people in these days, whatever is done which is worth doing, is done in spite of the system and in the teeth of its maxims; and most true it is that we do, all of us, tacitly at least, admit that it is opposed to all the highest aspirations of mankind.

Do we not know, for instance, how those men of genius work who are the salt of the earth, without whom the corruption of society would long ago have become unendurable? The poet, the artist, the man of science, is it not true that in their fresh and glorious days, when they are in the heyday of their faith and enthusiasm, they are thwarted at every turn by Commercial war, with its sneering question 'Will it pay?' Is it not true that when they begin to win worldly success, when they become comparatively rich, in spite of ourselves they seem to us tainted by the contact with the commercial world?

Need I speak of great schemes that hang about neglected; of things most necessary to be done, and so confessed by all men, that no one can seriously set a hand to because of the lack of money; while if it be a question of creating or stimulating some foolish whim in the public mind, the satisfaction of which will breed a profit, the money will come in by the ton? Nay, you know what an old story it is of the wars bred by Commerce in search of new markets, which not even the most peaceable of statesmen can resist; an old story and still it seems for ever new, and now become a kind of grim joke, at which I would rather not laugh if I could help it, but am even forced to laugh from a soul laden with anger.

That is what three centuries of Commerce have brought that hope to which sprang up when feudalism began to fall to pieces. What can give us the day-spring of a new hope? What, save general revolt against the tyranny of Commercial war? The palliatives over which many worthy people are busying themselves now are useless: because they are but unorganized partial revolts against a vast widespreading grasping organization which will, with the unconscious instinct of a plant, meet every attempt at bettering the condition of the people with an attack on a fresh side; new machines, new markets, wholesale emigration, the revival of grovelling superstitions, preachments of thrift to lack-alls, of temperance to the wretched; such things as these will baffle at every turn all partial revolts against the monster we of the middle classes have created for our own undoing.

Take courage, and believe that we of this age, in spite of all its torment and disorder, have been born to a wonderful heritage fashioned of the work of those that have gone before us; and that the day of the organization of man is dawning. It is not we who can build up the new social order; the past ages have done the most of that work for us; but we can clear our eyes to the signs of the times, and we shall then see that the attainment of a good condition of life is being made possible for us, and that it is now our business to stretch out our hands and take it.

And how? Chiefly, I think, by educating people to a sense of their real capacities as men, so that they may be able to use to their own good the political power which is rapidly being thrust upon them; to get them to see that the old system of organizing labour for individual profit is becoming unmanageable, and that the whole people have now got to choose between the confusion resulting from the breakup of that system and the determination to take in hand the labour now organized for profit, and use its organization for the livelihood of the community: to get people to see that individual profit-makers are not a necessity for labour but an obstruction to it, and that not only or chiefly because they are the perpetual pensioners of labour, as they are, but rather because of the waste which their existence as a class necessitates. All this we have to teach people, when we have taught ourselves; and I admit that the work is long and burdensome; as I began by saying, people have been made so timorous of change by the terror of starvation that even the unluckiest of them are stolid and hard to move. Hard as the work is, however, its reward is not doubtful. The mere fact that a body of men, however small, are banded together as Socialist missionaries shows that the change is going on. As the working classes, the real organic part of society, take in these ideas, hope will arise in them, and they will claim changes in society, many of which doubtless will not tend directly towards their emancipation, because they will be claimed without due knowledge of the one thing necessary to claim, equality of condition; but which indirectly will help to break up our rotten sham society, while that claim for equality of condition will be made constantly and with growing loudness till it must be listened to, and then at last it will only be a step over the border, and the civilized world will be socialized; and, looking back on what has been, we shall be astonished to think of how long we submitted to live as we live now.

The misery and squalor which we people of civilization bear with so much complacency as a necessary part of the manufacturing system, is just as necessary to the community at large as a proportionate amount of filth would be in the house of a private rich man. If such a man were to allow the cinders to be raked all over his drawing-room, and a privy to be established in each corner of his dining room, if he habitually made a dust and refuse heap of his once beautiful garden, never washed his sheets or changed his tablecloth, and made his family sleep five in a bed, he would surely find himself in the claws of a commission de lunatico. But such acts of miserly folly are just what our present society is doing daily under the compulsion of a supposed necessity, which is nothing short of madness.

Intelligence enough to conceive, courage enough to will, power enough to compel. If our ideas of a new society are anything more than a dream, these three qualities must animate the due effective majority of the working people; and then, I say, the thing will be done.

The capitalist classes are doubtless alarmed at the spread of Socialism all over the civilized world. They have at least an instinct of danger; but with that instinct comes the other one of self-defence. Look how the whole capitalist world is stretching out long arms towards the barbarous world and grabbing and clutching in eager competition at countries whose inhabitants don't want them; nay, in many cases, would rather die in battle, like the valiant men they are, than have them. So perverse are these wild men before the blessings of civilization which would do nothing worse for them (and also nothing better) than reduce them to a propertyless proletariat.

And what is all this for? For the spread of abstract ideas of civilization, for pure benevolence, for the honour and glory of conquest? Not at all. It is for the opening of fresh markets to take in all the fresh profit-producing wealth which is growing greater and greater every day; in other words, to make fresh opportunities for waste; the waste of our labour and our lives.

And I say this is an irresistible instinct on the part of the capitalists, an impulse like hunger, and I believe that it can only be met by another hunger, the hunger for freedom and fair play for all, both people and peoples. Anything less than that the capitalist powers will brush aside. But that they cannot; for what will it mean? The most important part of their machinery, the 'hands' becoming MEN, and saying, 'Now at last we will it; we will produce no more for profit but for use, for happiness, for LIFE.'

We were invited to meet William Morris at Kelmscott House. He was practical as well as impatient.

How can it be! that strong and fruitful life

Hath ceased - that strenuous but joyful heart,

Skilled craftesman in the loom of song and art,

Whose voice by beating seas of hope and strife,

Would lift the soul of labour from the knife,

And strive against greed of factory and mart -

Ah! ere the morning, must he, too, depart

While yet with battle cries the air is rife?

Blazon the name in England's Book of Gold

Who loved her, and who wrought her legends fair,

Woven in song and written in design,

The wonders of the press and loom - a shrine,

Beyond the touch of death, that shall enfold

In life's House Beautiful, a spirit rare.

William Morris was to my mind one of the greatest men of genius this or any other land has ever known.

It was William Morris who first made me consciously aware of the ugliness of a society which so arranged its affairs that its workers were deprived of the beauty which life should give. I might have known him better if I had been less aware of his greatness.

No man I have ever known was so well loved. I soon discovered his spontaneity and joy and made him my chief of men.


William Morris textiles

Throughout his life, William Morris was fascinated by textiles and the techniques he needed to master to produce the effects he saw and admired in historical furnishings.

Satisfying his need for a manual as well as an intellectual engagement with design, textiles also offered Morris the scope to develop his talent for pattern across a huge number of different products. The V&A has extensive collections of his work in textiles – ranging from examples of his first experiments in embroidery in the early 1860s through to the imposing tapestry panels he helped to create only a few years before his death.

Drawing of Helen (Flamma Troiae), William Morris, about 1860, England. Museum no. E.571-1940. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Embroidery was the first textile technique that Morris adapted for commercial use. Carried out before he was married, his first rather haphazard experiments in stitching fabric were an attempt to create a version of the medieval wall hangings he had admired since he was a boy. Although crude, these first goes were the foundation for a set of more refined embroidered wall hangings and curtains that Morris, his wife Jane and their friends later made for Red House, the Morris's first family home in Kent. One of these fabrics (stitched by Jane Morris) won Morris's new company an award in the 1862 International Exhibition, but their rather imposing historical style meant critics doubted how popular they would be in middle-class homes.

Lotus wall hanging, designed by William Morris, embroidered by Margaret Beale, 1875 – 1880, England. Museum no. T.192-1953. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Despite its limitations, embroidery was the only practical means of decorating textiles in the early years of Morris's company. It was used to produce a small range of objects for domestic interiors (although the majority were made for friends or associates) and as part of commissions to decorate the interiors of a number of England's newly built churches. From the mid-1870s Morris and Edward Burne-Jones worked together (Morris providing decorative detail, Burne-Jones figuration) with teams of embroiderers on panels for a series of clients wealthy enough to clad the walls of their homes with hangings rather than wallpaper. They also designed and sold 'off the shelf' versions, as well as bespoke schemes for clients to complete at home.

Wall hanging, designed by William Morris, made by Ada Phoebe Godman, 1877, England. Museum no. T.166-1978. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Embroidery became a more significant part of the business following the opening of Morris & Company's new 'all under one roof' shop in Oxford Street in 1877. With Morris fast becoming a 'name' designer, people were keen to gain access to his work, and he was under increasing pressure to turn out staple commercial stock. He, and later his daughter May and assistant John Henry Dearle, produced a large number of designs for either completed panels or 'embroider yourself' kits that were used to make cushion covers, fire screens, portières (curtains hung over a door or doorway) and bedcovers. In 1885 Morris stepped away from direct involvement with embroidery, putting May (aged just 23) in charge of production.

Acanthus wall hanging, designed by William Morris, made by Morris & Co., about 1880, England. Museum no. T.153-1979. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London Flowerpot embroidered picture, designed by William Morris and Mary Morris, 1878 – 1880, England. Museum no. T.68-1939. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London Small Stem, furnishing textile, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., about 1868, England. Museum no. T.37-1979. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The first printed fabrics made by Morris's company, in 1868, were copies of 1830s white-ground chintzes, produced at Clarkson in Lancashire using blocks rather than the modern roller method (a revivalist rule that Morris would stick to throughout his career). These prints were effectively a test for Morris's first actual textile design, 'Jasmine Trellis' (1868–70), a pattern that was simplified to suit the palette of the mostly chemical dyes Clarkson used in its manufacturing process. Morris was happier with his second textile design, 'Tulip and Willow' (1873), although he was disappointed by the crude effect achieved with Prussian blue dye.

Jasmine Trellis, furnishing fabric, designed by William Morris, made by Thomas Wardle, manufactured by Bannister Hall, 1868 – 1870, England. Museum no. T.70-1953. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London Tulip and Willow, furnishing fabric, designed by William Morris, made by Morris & Co., 1873, England. Museum no. CIRC.91-1933. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

It was in the early 1870s, after many years collaborating with talented painters, and having had some success with his first wallpaper designs, that Morris accepted his gift was not for figurative form but for repeat patterns. He threw himself into the attempt to master the technical processes required to make his own products. In 1875, keen to re-establish the use of natural dyes, Morris began working with Thomas Wardle, the owner of a dyeing works in Leek, Staffordshire. The first textile likely to have been printed by Wardle is 'Marigold' (1875), a dense pattern that Morris also used for wallpaper. Morris produced a large number of textile designs over the next few years, all of which focused unapologetically on ordinary garden flowers: tulips, larkspur (delphinium), iris, bluebell, columbine, honeysuckle, roses and thistles.

Marigold, furnishing fabric, designed by William Morris, made by Wardle & Co., 1875, England. Museum no. CIRC.496-1965. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Throughout the 1870s Morris had to rely on outside contractors to produce the quantities of material required commercially by his company, and the pressure increased when he opened his Oxford Street shop. His search for a site on which to consolidate his workshops and take full control of production ended in 1881 when he found Merton Abbey, an old textile-printing works near Wimbledon. Unprecedented in scale for a London manufacturer, the site offered a supply of soft water in the River Wandle, and the acres of ground necessary for the washing and drying of cloth. It also gave Morris the room to build the huge indigo vats that eventually helped him to create the 'right' blue dye that had previously eluded him.

Honeysuckle, furnishing fabric, designed by William Morris, made by Wardle & Co., 1876, England. Museum no. CIRC.491-1965. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London Rose and Thistle, furnishing fabric, William Morris, 1881, England. Museum no. T.634-1919. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In 1883 Morris used the complex indigo-discharge print method to produce a design that, although expensive, was still one of the company's most successful: 'Strawberry Thief'. This pattern was inspired by the fruit-stealing thrushes in the kitchen garden of his country home, Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire. The crisp outlines offered by indigo-discharge printing then allowed Morris to create a series of exuberantly complex designs. In 1884 he produced both 'Wandle' – the largest repeat attempted by Morris at 98.4 x 44.5cm – and 'Cray', his last significant design for a printed textile.

Strawberry Thief, furnishing fabric, designed by William Morris, made by Morris & Co., 1883, England. Museum no. T.586-1919. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London Cray, furnishing fabric, William Morris, 1884, England. Museum no. CIRC.82-1953. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Of all the textile techniques that Morris taught himself, he left weaving until last. Mastering the working of the various looms needed for furnishings, tapestry and carpet weaving presented the greatest technical difficulties of his career. And Morris wanted to do more than weave traditional structures – he was also interested in producing experimental cloths created by mixing fibres in new ways. 'Tulip and Rose', the first dateable design by Morris for a woven furnishing textile, was registered in 1876 but he had been considering adding these to the firm's range for some time.

Tulip and rose, furnishing fabric, designed by William Morris, manufactured by Heckmondwike Manufacturing Company, 1876, England. Museum no. CIRC.390A-1970. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Morris produced designs for woven cloths for around a decade, and with significant commercial success. Silk, mohair and wool were all used and Morris achieved some impressive results – he even managed to embellish some patterns with gold threads. However, most of the weaves were flat jacquards in wool that were popular for curtains and wall-hung drapes – a medieval-style trend encouraged by Morris & Company. Morris studied many examples of early woven textiles in the collections of the South Kensington Museum (later to become the V&A). Many of his designs were inspired by 16th- and 17th-century Italian silks, and 'Peacock and Dragon', an imposing yet popular design from 1878, used striking, medieval-style figuration.

Peacock and dragon, curtains, designed by William Morris, manufactured by Morris & Co., 1878, England. Museum no. T.64&A-1933. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Initially, with no facilities to weave commercial quantities of cloth, Morris relied on outside contractors. The acquisition of Merton Abbey in 1881 enabled production to move in-house. Morris's interest in the technical aspects of weaving increased, and some of his final designs attempted to reproduce complex historical structures, such as the sumptuous brocaded Flemish velvets of the 15th and 16th centuries – in 'Granada', a design of 1884, for example. Morris's last identifiable designs for woven textiles were drawn in 1888 after this time, John Henry Dearle was responsible for this aspect of the company's output.

Granada, furnishing fabric, William Morris, 1884, England. Museum no. T.4-1919. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Morris taught himself what he called 'the noblest of all the weaving arts', first setting up a tapestry loom in 1877. His first completed piece was 'Acanthus and Vine' (1879), which apparently took 516 and a half hours to complete – time Morris had snatched (and meticulously recorded) from his commercial timetable by regularly getting up at dawn to work at a loom in his bedroom. The design of this piece was influenced by the 'large-leaf' verdure tapestries woven in France and Flanders in the 16th century, and its deliberately faded appearance was probably an attempt to recreate the wall hangings that had so impressed Morris when he had visited a hunting lodge in Epping Forest as a boy.

Cartoon for Acanthus and Vine tapestry, designed by William Morris, made by Morris & Co., 1879, England. Museum no. E.3472-1932. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Tapestry weaving was established at Merton Abbey when company production was consolidated at the site in 1881, and Morris appointed John Henry Dearle to manage production. Large tapestry commissions were often designed by Morris, Dearle and other artists in collaboration, and executed by the company's experienced weavers on Flemish-style looms that Morris had built. Although by 1890 these tapestries were becoming increasingly popular with rich clients, they didn't offer a reliable source of income. The company made more money from the sale of smaller, affordable tapestry panels or cushions, which were available through the company's Oxford Street showroom and via overseas agents. Morris only designed one figurative tapestry 'The Orchard' in 1890, but Burne-Jones's work proved more popular with clients.

The Forest, tapestry, designed by William Morris, Philip Webb, John Henry Dearle, made by Merton Abbey Workshop, 1887, England. Museum no. T.111-1926. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

It was not until a commission in 1890 to decorate the interiors of Stanmore Hall in Middlesex, the last he worked on, that Morris was able to achieve his most important ambition, the production of a set of narrative tapestries in the medieval manner. Returning to the kind of Arthurian subject that Morris had so loved as a young man, he, Burne-Jones and Dearle used their wealthy client's large budget to create a set of lavish tapestries based on the theme of the Search for the Holy Grail.

The Orchard, tapestry, designed by William Morris and John Henry Dearle, made by Morris & Co., 1890, England. Museum no. 154-1898. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Carpets and floor coverings

Morris began to design and outsource the machine production of carpet designs in the mid-1870s. It was probably the Kidderminster carpet (a coarse flat weave mainly made using woollen yarns) that he first attempted a design for, a style that was eventually produced by Morris & Company in around seven different patterns. Morris helped popularise this type of cheaper carpeting, which had tended to be used only for service corridors and secondary rooms. In the 1870s and 1880s Morris & Company received a number of orders from people keen to decorate large town and country houses in the new style, including Alexander Ionides, a London-based shipping owner who ordered 13 yards of Kidderminster carpet for his house in Holland Park.

Tulip and Lily, sample, designed by William Morris, made by Heckmondwike Manufacturing Company, 1875, England. Museum no. T.101-1953. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London Artichoke, carpet sample, designed by William Morris, manufactured by Heckmondwike Manufacturing Company, 1875 – 1880, England. Museum no. T.188-1984. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Morris also designed carpets that were woven at Wilton, the town in Wiltshire with a long-established pedigree in carpet manufacture. Wilton-style machine-woven carpet – made from densely packed tufts of wool that are cut to create a velvety final texture – was eventually available from Morris & Company in 24 different designs, and over time proved its most popular flooring product.

Lily, sample, designed by William Morris, manufactured by Wilton Royal Carpet Factory Ltd., about 1875, England. Museum no. CIRC.65B-1959. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In the late 1870s, inspired by his study of Persian rugs, Morris also moved into carpet production by hand. He revived the practice of hand-knotting and honed his skills by making small rugs at home. In 1879 he began to oversee the hand-knotting of what the company called 'Hammersmith' rugs in limited runs on looms installed in outbuildings at his London house. The looms were moved to Merton Abbey in 1881, where Morris & Company produced large Hammersmith rugs for a series of interiors commissions. These included one in 1889 for John Sanderson, a wool trader who lived in a house called Bullerswood in Chislehurst, Kent. The resulting 'Bullerswood' carpet was an exuberant amalgamation of almost every motif devised by Morris for carpets.


William Morris

William Morris is best known as the 19th century's most celebrated designer, but he was also a driven polymath who spent much of his life fighting the consensus. A key figure in the Arts & Crafts Movement, Morris championed a principle of handmade production that didn't chime with the Victorian era's focus on industrial 'progress.'

Morris was born in Walthamstow, east London, in 1834. The financial success of his broker father gave Morris a privileged childhood in Woodford Hall (a country house in Essex), as well as an inheritance large enough to mean he would never need to earn an income. Time spent exploring local parkland, forest, and churches, and an enthusiasm for the stories of Walter Scott, helped Morris develop an early affinity with landscape, buildings and historical romance. He also had precociously strong opinions on design. On a family trip to London in 1851, Morris (aged 16) demonstrated his loyalty to craft principles by refusing to enter the Great Exhibition – which championed Machine Age design – on the grounds of taste.

After school, Morris went to Oxford University to study for the Church. It was there that he met Edward Burne-Jones, who was to become one of the era's most famous painters, and Morris's life-long friend. Burne-Jones introduced him to a group of students who became known as 'The Set' or 'The Brotherhood' and who enjoyed romantic stories of medieval chivalry and self-sacrifice. They also read books by contemporary reformers such as John Ruskin, Charles Kingsley, and Thomas Carlyle. Belonging to this group gave Morris an awareness of the deep divisions in modern society. It sparked his interest in trying to create an alternative to the dehumanizing industrial systems that produced poor-quality, 'unnatural' objects.

In 1855, Morris and Burne-Jones went on an architectural tour of northern France that made both men realize that they were more committed to art than the Church. Soon after, Morris began work in the office of George Edmund Street, the era's leading Neo-Gothic architect. Morris showed little talent for architecture and spent most of his time setting up Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, a vehicle both for his writing and that of other members of The Brotherhood. Morris left Street's office after only eight months, to begin a career as an artist. Burne-Jones's connection with the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti – a central figure in the Pre-Raphaelite group – soon led to Morris working with Rossetti as part of a team painting murals at the Oxford Union.

While working in Oxford, Morris had a chance meeting with a local stableman's daughter, Jane Burden. Consciously flouting the rules of class, Morris married Jane in 1859 (and her striking looks were to make her a model of idealized beauty for members of the Pre-Raphaelite group for the next 30 years). Morris commissioned architect Philip Webb – whom he had met during his time at Street's – to design and build a home for himself and his wife in rural Kent. In part, Morris wanted to realize the idea of a craft-based artistic community that he and Burne-Jones had been talking about since they were students. The result was Red House, a property that would be 'medieval in spirit' and, eventually, able to accommodate more than one family.

Morris and Jane moved into Red House in 1860 and, unhappy with what was on offer commercially, spent the next two years furnishing and decorating the interior with help from members of their artistic circle. Huge murals and hand-embroidered fabrics decorated the walls, creating the feel of a historic manor house. Prompted by the success of their efforts (and the experience of 'joy in collective labor'), Morris and his friends decided in 1861 to set up their own interiors company: Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. Everything was to be created by hand, a principle that set the company firmly against the mainstream focus on industrialized 'progress.'

Initially, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. specialized in the kind of wall paintings and embroidered hangings that had been produced for Red House. Although in its first few years the company didn't make much money, it did win a series of commissions to decorate newly built churches and became well known for work in stained glass. Morris had always wanted the firm to be based at Red House, but the practical restrictions of a small, rural workshop (as well as the death of Burne-Jones's young son) meant that the idea of a medieval-style craft-based community was abandoned. Morris sold Red House in 1865, and the family moved back to London.

In the late 1860s, two prestigious decorating commissions helped establish Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co.'s reputation: one for a new dining room at the South Kensington Museum (later the V&A), and another at St James's Palace. During this period, Morris was also working on The Earthly Paradise, an epic poem with an anti-industrial message that established Morris as one of the foremost poets of his day. He was also busy producing his first wallpapers, whose designs were inspired by English gardens and hedgerows. To make them, he researched and revived historical printing and dyeing methods. This insistence on establishing a 'from scratch' understanding of the process was to become a hallmark of Morris's career.

In 1875 Morris became the sole director of the renamed and restructured Morris & Company. Over the next decade, he continued to design at an impressive rate, adding at least 32 printed fabrics, 23 woven fabrics, and 21 wallpapers – as well as more designs for carpets and rugs, embroidery, and tapestry – to the company's range of goods. All of these were sold in the shop that Morris opened on Oxford Street in 1877, in a fashionable space that offered a new kind of 'all under one roof' retail experience. By 1881 Morris had built up enough capital to acquire Merton Abbey Mills, a textile factory in south London. This allowed him to bring all the company's workshops together in one place, and to have closer control overproduction.

In his political life, Morris became increasingly disillusioned with parliamentary politics as a means of ending class division, and in 1884 he helped set up a new group called the Socialist League. He made frequent street-corner speeches and went on marches, but his fame protected him against the sanctions of a disapproving establishment. Increasingly, Morris began to leave matters at Merton Abbey in charge of his assistant Henry Dearle and other senior members of the firm, including his daughter, May. He did however continue his interest in tapestry, and for the last five years of his life was involved with Burne-Jones and Dearle on the design of a set of panels based on the Search for the Holy Grail.

Towards the end of his career, Morris began to focus increasingly on his writing, publishing several prose narratives, including his most celebrated: News from Nowhere (1890). Infused with his socialist ideas and romantic utopianism, this book offers Morris's vision of a simple world in which art or 'work-pleasure' is demanded of and enjoyed by all. In 1891 Morris set up the Kelmscott Press. The books the Press produced – eventually, a total of 66 – were printed and bound in a medieval style, with Morris designing their typefaces, initial letters, and borders. The most famous of these is an illustrated edition of the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, which was published in 1896, a few months before Morris's death.

William Morris was the first artist of the modern era to combine word and image in the expression of his vision. Following in the footsteps of that other great London-born radical and luminary William Blake, Morris developed an aesthetic in which the words printed on a hanging tapestry, for example, or in a hand-printed manuscript, were as reliant on their surrounding pattern-work for meaning as the images were on the text. This notion of multi-media art practice, though realized in the context of nostalgic medievalism, pre-empted the more overtly radical art-and-language experiments of the 20th century, from Constructivist book design to Concrete Poetry.

William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896) was an English textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist. Associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement, he was a major contributor to the revival of traditional British textile arts and methods of production. His literary contributions helped to establish the modern fantasy genre, while he played a significant role in propagating the early socialist movement in Britain.

Born in Walthamstow, Essex, to a wealthy middle-class family, Morris came under the strong influence of medievalism while studying Classics at Oxford University, there joining the Birmingham Set. After university, he trained as an architect, married Jane Burden, and developed close friendships with the Pre-Raphaelite artists Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti and with the Neo-Gothic architect Philip Webb. Webb and Morris designed a family home, Red House, then in Kent, where the latter lived from 1859 to 1865, before moving to Bloomsbury, central London. In 1861, Morris founded a decorative arts firm with Burne-Jones, Rossetti, Webb, and others: the Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. Becoming highly fashionable and much in demand, the firm profoundly influenced interior decoration throughout the Victorian period, with Morris designing tapestries, wallpaper, fabrics, furniture, and stained glass windows. In 1875, Morris assumed total control of the company, which was renamed Morris & Co.

Although retaining a main home in London, from 1871 Morris rented the rural retreat of Kelmscott Manor, Oxfordshire. Greatly influenced by visits to Iceland, with Eiríkr Magnússon he produced a series of English-language translations of Icelandic Sagas. He also achieved success with the publication of his epic poems and novels, namely The Earthly Paradise (1868–1870), A Dream of John Ball (1888), the Utopian News from Nowhere (1890), and the fantasy romance The Well at the World's End (1896). In 1877 he founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings to campaign against the damage caused by architectural restoration. Embracing Marxism and influenced by anarchism, in the 1880s Morris became a committed revolutionary socialist activist after an involvement in the Social Democratic Federation (SDF), he founded the Socialist League in 1884, but broke with that organization in 1890. In 1891 he founded the Kelmscott Press to publish limited-edition, illuminated-style print books, a cause to which he devoted his final years.

Morris is recognised as one of the most significant cultural figures of Victorian Britain though best known in his lifetime as a poet, he posthumously became better known for his designs. Founded in 1955, the William Morris Society is devoted to his legacy, while multiple biographies and studies of his work have seen publication. Many of the buildings associated with his life are open to visitors, much of his work can be found in art galleries and museums, and his designs are still in production.

Morris was born at Elm House in Walthamstow, Essex, on 24 March 1834. Raised into a wealthy middle-class family, he was named after his father, a financier who worked as a partner in the Sanderson & Co. firm, bill brokers in the City of London. His mother was Emma Morris (née Shelton), who descended from a wealthy bourgeois family from Worcester. Morris was the third of his parents' surviving children their first child, Charles, had been born in 1827 but died four days later. Charles had been followed by the birth of two girls, Emma in 1829 and Henrietta in 1833, before William's birth. These children were followed by the birth of siblings Stanley in 1837, Rendall in 1839, Arthur in 1840, Isabella in 1842, Edgar in 1844, and Alice in 1846. The Morris family were followers of the evangelical Protestant form of Christianity, and William was baptised four months after his birth at St. Mary's Church, Walthamstow.

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William Morris - History

William Morris died in 1896. The firm, Morris & Co., continued until 1905 when it was renamed Morris & Co. Decorators Ltd. Success continued through 1925 with yet another name change: Morris & Company Art Workers Ltd. With the onslaught of the Depression, business declined and the “Firm” was liquidated in 1940. At that time Arthur Sanderson & Sons Limited acquired Morris’ original wallpaper printing blocks from Jeffrey and Co. who had printed wallpapers for Morris & Co.

In all, William Morris and the designers who worked with him designed an amazing range of wallpapers, fabrics and other textiles and products like carpets, tiles, tapestries, linoleum, embroideries, stained-glass windows, commissions for stenciling, and designs for entire interiors.

There are at least 93 known wallpaper designs and over 143 repeating fabric designs by William Morris and the other designers who worked for Morris & Co.

Morris’ designs are now out of copyright, being 75 years after the death of the original designer.

Today, many of the original Morris & Co. designs, in both wallpaper and fabric, are being reproduced. A few manufacturers print his designs.

Many of William Morris’ designs have been in continuous production for over 130 years, which speaks to their enduring appeal. His designs were at the forefront of the development of the Arts & Crafts movement in England, and are just as appropriate to today’s restoration or construction of Arts & Crafts style homes in North America.

Comfortable in houses of any age, the enduring beauty of William Morris’ designs can be enjoyed in your own home today.


Red House

Morris’ ideas materialised in Red House, a new family home designed by Phillip Webb in Kent. The design aimed to be true to its materials and expressive of the site and local culture. When Rossetti saw it for the first time, he declared it

Along with several friends, who thrived in the ‘joy in collective labour’, huge murals and hand-embroidered fabrics adorned the walls, creating a sense of an ancient manor house.

Red House in Bexleyheath is now owned by the National Trust. Image source: Ethan Doyle White / CC BY-SA 3.0.

Every detail was taken into account – Morris custom-designed furniture, glassware, candle-sticks, chairs, picture-hooks and finger-plates. It was ‘very medieval in spirit’ – more a simple design harking back to the houses of the ordinary man, rather than the fussy mid-Victorian architecture then in fashion.


William Morris - History

What began more than two centuries ago as a single newspaper in Augusta, Ga., today has grown into a diversified media company with an international presence.

Morris Communications Company LLC’s holdings not only span the United States – from Alaska and Hawaii to Texas, Georgia and Florida – but also extend into the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Principality of Monaco and Australia.

Morris’ licensed publications further expand the company’s interests into Canada,Italy, Turkey, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Russia, Singapore and Macao, China. With its event-marketing division, National Barrel Horse Association, MCC reaches into Venezuela, Panama, China and other countries.

A private, family-owned company, Morris Communications traces its beginnings to a corporate structure dating from the 1800s. The modern-day company was established in 1945 with the creation of Southeastern Newspapers Inc., which grew to become Morris Communications Corp. in 1970.

In addition to its foundation business of newspaper publishing, the multimedia corporation over the years expanded into magazines and specialized publications, book publishing and distribution, radio broadcasting, visitor publications, cable television, commercial and residential broadband data and telephone services, event marketing, commercial printing and online services.

William S. (Billy) Morris III, who established Morris Communications more than four decades ago, is chairman. William S. (Will) Morris IV, his oldest son, is chief executive officer. Son Tyler Morris and daughter Susie Morris Baker are both associated with the company.

The Morris family became involved with The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle in 1929, when 26-year-old William S. Morris Jr., father of today’s CEO, became a bookkeeper at the daily newspaper. The Chronicle had begun publication in 1785 as the Augusta Gazette, the fledgling town’s first newspaper. Today, Morris Communications Co. maintains corporate headquarters only a few blocks from the site of its modest beginnings.

In 1945, Bill Morris, his wife, Florence, and a friend purchased controlling interest in The Chronicle. Ten years later, Morris and his wife bought the remainder of the outstanding stock along with the afternoon newspaper, the Augusta Herald.

Billy Morris, who had delivered the hometown newspapers from horseback as a boy, joined the company in 1956 as assistant to the president, a few days before his 22nd birthday. A decade later he became publisher of the two Augusta newspapers and president of the corporation.

With the Augusta newspapers as a base, the company began its expansion with the purchase of a radio and television station in Augusta, and added two other Georgia daily newspapers in Savannah and Athens. The company acquired its largest-circulation newspaper, The Florida Times-Union, and the St. Augustine (Fla.) Record, with the purchase of Florida Publishing Co. in Jacksonville Jan. 1, 1983.

In 1985 Morris Communications moved into outdoor advertising with the purchase of Naegele Outdoor Advertising, Inc., later renamed Fairway Outdoor Advertising. The single largest expansion in numbers of properties occurred in 1995 with the purchase of all outstanding stock of Stauffer Communications, Inc., of Topeka, Kan. The acquisition included daily newspapers, non-daily newspapers, shoppers, and television and radio stations.

Through the years, Morris Communications has continued to grow and seek diversity in holdings that further its objective of being the pre-eminent source of news, advertising, entertainment and information in the communities it serves.

Understanding the profit potential in the travel industry and the clear synergy with its existing presence in outdoor recreation markets, Morris purchased Best Read Guide Franchise Corp. in 1997 and added the upscale in-room travelers’ guides, Guest Informant and Where® in 2003 and 2004. Now the second-largest corporate division, Morris Visitor Publications provides advertisers with a targeted vehicle to attract customers and clients.

The company expanded overseas in 1998 with the acquisition of Cadogan Guides in London, England, and created the subsidiary company Morris Publications Ltd. UK. Later that year, Morris Purchased London This Week, a visitor publication now named the London Planner.

In 1991, Morris Publishing Group was formed to assume the operations of the newspaper business segment of its parent, Morris Communications Co. With a concentrated presence in the southeastern United States, MPG publishes 11 daily and numerous non-daily and free community newspapers.

All divisions of Morris are committed to providing the digital services customers need, be they readers or business clients. As digital audiences are growing at phenomenal rates, Morris hosts dozens of websites, mobile sites and mobile APPS, many of which have been recognized as best of breed in their industries.

Morris Publishing Group also launched Main Street Digital, a marketing services company providing the full range of digital marketing solutions that businesses operating in the MSD footprint require to effectively reach customers in their communities.

In 2011 Morris Communications entered into a strategic partnership with NIIT Technologies, a leading information technologies solutions organization based in New Delhi, India and serving clients in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. The partnership significantly reduces the costs of operations and services while raising the level of services to meet future needs.

Since 1995, Morris Communications has built a strong record of leadership in the digital publishing environment. Its Morris Publishing Group is fully engaged in meeting industry imperatives of building and maintaining circulation in a highly competitive media climate.

The company has moved into the 21st century with optimism and enthusiasm, fortified by its heritage, its successes, and the dedication of its employees.


Know how William Morris and his company Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co. promoted arts and crafts movement bringing economic and social reform

Arts and crafts isn't just about glitter, glue, and garish bobble hats. Arts and crafts, the Movement, was actually one of the most influential periods in design history.

About 150 years ago, people had become totally fed up with machines. Not that kind of machine-- this kind. The steam engine brought mechanization to industry, agriculture, and transportation, which changed everything. People had gone nuts for technology. Manufacturers could now make loads of stuff for loads of people without really thinking too much about the final product.

Before the Industrial Revolution, a craftsman would spend a lifetime perfecting his skill, and it showed. But when mass production came along, the art of making things-- crafting them-- kind of faded away. The arts and crafts movement was a rebellion-- a reaction to the negative impact of industry.

And this Beardie led the charge-- William Morris was a poet and artist. He believed industrial production was making us less creative and removing skill from the manufacturing process. Morris said, "We do not reject the machine. We welcome it. But we would desire to see it mastered." His influential company Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co. provided everything the 19th century homeowner needed-- from wallpaper to furnishings, stained glass to carpeting.

Arts and crafts purists like Morris liked to see, well, craftsmanship in the things they made and sold. Hammer marks were left visible in metal work, joints exposed in furniture. The movement promoted economic and social reform, while championing ordinary workers and underappreciated craftspeople. Arts and crafts had global appeal.

You could say arts and crafts never actually ended. Its morals, ethics, and political aims are still evident today. We love knowing where our stuff is made, and whether it was made well or not. Even though we know rely upon technology more than at any point in human history, we also still care about how and why something is made. You can thank the arts and crafts movement for that.


William Morris

To give anything like a history of the art of pattern-designing would be impossible within the limits of one lecture, for it would be doing no less than attempting to tell the whole story of architectural or popular art, a vast and most important subject. All I can pretend to do at present is to call your attention to certain things I have noticed in studying the development of the art of pattern-designing from ancient times to modern, and to hint at certain principles that have seemed to me to lie at the bottom of the practice of that art, and certain tendencies which its long course has had. Even in doing this I know I shall have to touch on difficult matters and take some facts for granted that may be, and have been, much disputed and I must, therefore, even treating the subject thus, claim your indulgence for a necessary curtness and incompleteness.

I have just used the word modern so to clear the ground for what follows, I will say that by modern art I do not mean the art of the Victorian era. I need not speak of the art of our own day, because, on the one hand, whatever there is of it that is worth considering is eclectic, and is not bound by the chain of tradition to anything that has gone before us and, on the other hand, whatever of art is left which is in any sense the result of continuous tradition is, and long has been, so degraded as to have lost any claim to be considered as art at all. The present century has no school of art but such as each man of talent or genius makes for himself to serve his craving for the expression of his thought while he is alive, and to perish with his death. The two preceding centuries had indeed styles, which dominated the practice of art, and allowed it to spread more or less widely over the civilized world but those styles were not alive and progressive, in spite of the feeling of self-sufficiency with which they were looked on by the artists of those days. When the great masters of the Renaissance were gone, they who, strung by the desire of doing something new, turned their mighty hands to the work of destroying the last remains of living popular art, putting in its place for a while the results of their own wonderful individuality: when these great men were dead, and lesser men of the ordinary type were masquerading in their garments, then at last it was seen what the so-called new birth really was then we could see that it was the fever of the strong man yearning to accomplish something before his death, not the simple hope of the child, who has long years of life and growth before him. Now the art, whose sickness this feverish energy marked, is the art which I should call modern art. Its very first roots were spreading when the Roman Empire was tending towards disruption its last heavily fruited branches were aloft in air when feudal Europe first felt shaken by the coming storm of revolution in Church and State, and the crown of the new Holy Roman Empire was on the eve of changing from gold to tinsel. Three great buildings mark its first feeble beginning, its vigorous early life, its last hiding away beneath the rubbish heaps of pedantry and hopelessness. I venture to call those three buildings in their present state, the first the strangest, the second the most beautiful, the third the ugliest of the buildings raised in Europe before the nineteenth century. The first of these is the Palace of Diocletian at Spalato the second, the Church of St Sophia at Constantinople the third, the Church of St Peter at Rome.

At Spalato the movement of new life was first felt. There is much about the building that is downright ugly, still more that is but a mass of worn-out tradition but there first, as far as we know, is visible the attempt to throw off the swathings of ill-understood Greek art, with which Roman architecture had encumbered itself, and to make that architecture reasonable, and consistent with the living principles of art. But at Spalato, though the art was trying to be alive, it was scarcely alive, and what life is in it is shown in its construction only, and not in its ornamentation. Our second building, St Sophia, early as it is in the history of the art, has utterly thrown aside all pedantic encumbrances, and is most vigorously alive. It has gathered to itself all those elements of change which, having been kept apart for so long, were at last mingled and seething, and bringing about so many changes, so much of death and life. It is not bound by the past, but it has garnered all that there was in it which was fit to live and produce fresh life it is the living child and the fruitful mother of art, past and future. That, even more than the loveliness which it drew forth from its own present, is what makes it the crown of all the great buildings of the world.

The new-born art was long in coming to this. Spalato was built about 313 A.D., St Sophia in 530. More than two hundred years are between them, by no means fertile of beautiful or remarkable buildings but St Sophia once built, the earth began to blossom with beautiful buildings, and the thousand years that lie between the date of St Sophia and the date of St Peter at Rome may well be called the building age of the world. But when those years were over, in Italy at least, the change was fully come and, as a symbol of that change, there stood on the site of the great mass of history and art which was once called the Basilica of St Peter, the new Church of St Peter which still curses the mightiest city of the world the very type, it seems to me, of pride and tyranny, of all that crushes out the love of art in simple people, and makes art a toy of little estimation for the idle hours of the rich and cultivated. Between that time and this, art has been shut up in prison all I can say of it in that condition is that I hope it has not died there. We can draw no lesson from its prison days save a spurring on to whatsoever of hope and indignant agitation for its release we may each of us be capable of. As an epoch of art it can teach us nothing so the nearest possible period to our own days must stand for modern art and to my mind that is the period between the days of the Emperor Justinian and the Emperor Charles the Fifth while we must call ancient art all the long period from the beginning of things to the time of Justinian and St Sophia of Constantinople.

And now I will set about my business of noting certain things which have happened to the very subordinate art of pattern-designing in its various changes, from those earliest days till the time when it was landed amidst that rich and varied time of modern art afore-mentioned. Let us consider what place it held among the ancient peoples, classical and barbarian you will understand what I mean by those words without pressing home their literal meanings. Broadly speaking, one may say that the use of this subordinate, but by no means unimportant art is to enliven with beauty and incident what would otherwise be a blank space, wheresoever or whatsoever it may be. The absolute necessities of the art are beauty of colour and restfulness of form. More definite qualities than these it need not have. Its colour may be brought about by the simplest combinations its form may be merely that of abstract lines or spaces, and need not of necessity have any distinct meaning, or tell any story expressible in words. On the other hand, it is necessary to the purity of the art that its form and colour, when these bear any relation to the facts of nature (as for the more part they do), should be suggestive of such facts, and not descriptive of them.

Now all the art of the ancient historical world is in a way one, and has similar and sympathetic thoughts to express. I mean that there is a much wider gulf between the ideas of that part of ancient art which comes nearest in thought to modern, than there is between any two parts of ancient art that are furthest from one another. Nevertheless there are wide differences between the art of the different races of the ancient world. Ancient art, in fact, falls naturally into two divisions the first is archaic, in style at least, if not always in date. It is mostly priestly and symbolic lacking, willingly or not, the power of expressing natural facts definitely and accurately. It is mystic, wild, and elevated in its spiritual part, its soul limited, incomplete, often grotesque in its form, its bodily part. The other ancient art is only priestly and symbolic accidentally, and not essentially. I mean that, since this priestly symbolism clung to it, it did not take the trouble to cast it off, but used it and expressed it but would as willingly and easily have expressed purely intellectual or moral ideas. Furthermore, it is an art of perfection it has perfectly attained the power of expressing what thoughts it allows itself, and will never forego any whit of that power, or tolerate any weakness or shortcoming in it. Whatever its soul may be, its body at least it will not have incomplete.

Of the first of these arts, ancient Egypt is the representative of the second, classical Greece and we must admit that in each of these systems the art of mere pattern-designing takes but an unimportant place. In Egyptian art, and the school which it represents, the picture-work itself was so limited by rule, so entirely suggestive only, that a certain canon of proportion having been once invented and established, it was easy and effortless work for a people who were full of feeling for quiet beauty and, moreover, suggestion, not imitation, being the end aimed at, the picture-work easily, and without straining, fulfilled any office of decoration it was put to so that the story which was necessary to be told on religious or public grounds became the very ornament which, merely as a matter of pleasant colour and line, the eye would most desire. In more modern and less forbearing art the pictured wall is apt to become a window through which a man quietly at work or resting looks on some great tragedy, some sad memory of the past, or terrible threat for the future. The constant companionship of such deeply emotional representations are too apt to trouble us at first, and at last to make us callous, because they are always claiming our attention, whether we are in a mood to be stirred by them or not. But in the older and more suggestive art the great subjects, symbolized rather than represented by its pictures, only reached the mind through the eye when the mind was awake and ready to receive them. The wall was a wall still, and not a window nay, a book rather, where, it you would, you might read the stories of the gods and heroes, and whose characters, whether you read them or not, delighted you always with the beauty of their form and colour. Moreover, the expression of these great things being so well understood and so limited, it was not above the powers of execution of numbers of average workmen, and there was no danger of the holy and elevating subjects being treated absurdly or stupidly, so as to wound the feelings of serious men.

For all these reasons there is in the archaic or suggestive art of the ancients scarce any place for the elaborate pattern-designing which in later times men were driven more or less to put in the place of picture-work, now become more liable to ridiculous and ignoble failure, more exciting to the emotions, less restful, and therefore less beautiful than it had been.

On the other hand, in the perfect art of Greece the tendency was so decidedly towards fact of all kinds, that it could only give a very low place to ornament that had not a quite definite meaning and its demand for perfection in quality of workmanship deprived effort of all hope of reward in this lower region of art, and crushed all experiment, all invention and imagination. In short, this perfect art preferred blankness to the richness that might be given by the work of an unrefined or imperfectly taught hand, whatever suggestions of beauty or thought might be in it therefore, as in the art of Egypt picture-work was not thought too good to fill the place of the elaborate pattern-work we are thinking of, so in that of Greece mere emptiness was good enough for the purpose so that in both cases there was no room for finished and complete pattern-designing nor was there in any of the schools of ancient art, all of which, as aforesaid, tended either to the Greek or the Egyptian way of looking at things. So you see we are met by this difficulty in the outset, that wishing to see whence our art of pattern-designing has been developed in the Ancient World, we find but little of any importance that looks like the seed of it. However, let us look at the matter a little closer, beginning with the art of Egypt. If it had no place for the elaborate and imaginative pattern-designs of modern art, at any rate it by no means loved blank spaces. Apart from the histories and the picture-writing which so often cover walls, pillars, and all, even smaller things, kings' robes. musical instruments, ship-sails, and the like, are striped and diapered with variety enough and with abundant fancy, invention and delicacy. Many of these patterns are familiar to modern art but to what extent they owe their presence there to the influence of Egypt I do not know, but rather suppose that they are the result of men's invention taking the same path in diverse times and places, and not of direct transmission and this all the more as I cannot see that Greek pattern-designs follow the Egyptian work closely. One thing certainly strikes one about many of these early designs of Egypt which does connect them with what follows, and that is that they seem distinctly not only Eastern, but even African. Take as an indication of this their love for stripes and chequers, that look as if they were borrowed from the mat-maker's craft, and compare them with the work of African tribes and people, so late as up to our own time. The Egyptian love of colour is also of the East, and their boldness in the use of it, and the ease and success with which they put one bright tint beside another without shading or gradation. On this point it is interesting to note that whatever wilful shortcomings clung to ancient Egypt in its dealings with the higher forms of art, its skill in all handicrafts was a wonder and a lesson to the ancient world. Fourteen hundred years before Christ they understood perfectly what may fairly be called the mysteries of figure-weaving and dyeing, even the more abstruse part of the last craft, which is now represented by chintz-printing they were skilled in glass-making and pottery, not merely in the always early-acquired art of making a vessel that shall hold water, but in that of earthenware glazed with an opaque glaze variously coloured and figured and lastly, they were as skilful joiners and cabinetmakers as their successors of modern Egypt, who are (or were) so clever in making the most of the little scraps of wood which an untimbered country affords them.

With all this, and strange as it may seem, I cannot see that this wonderful art which lasted so many hundred years, which had reached its blossoming-time fourteen hundred years before Christ, and was still in use in the second century after, has had much direct or lasting influence on the modern pattern-designer's art. Doubtless these flowers here look as if they might have been the prototypes of many that were drawn in the fourteenth century of our era but you must remember that, though they are conventional and stiffly drawn, they are parts of a picture, and stand for the assertion that flowers grew in such and such a place. They are not used in mere fancy and sportiveness which condition of art indeed, as I said before, will be found to be common to all these primitive archaic styles. Scarce anything is drawn which is not meant to tell a definite story so that many of the members of the elaborate Egyptian diapers are symbols of the mysteries of nature and religion as, for example, the lotus, the scarab, the winged orb, the hooded and winged serpent.

I suppose that there is no doubt that the gigantic and awful temples of Egypt are the earliest columnar buildings of which the world knows nevertheless, I cannot think that the columnar Greek temple was derived from them, whatever of detail the Greeks borrowed frankly and obviously from them. The enormous and terrible scale on which they are designed, and especially the battering in of walls and door-jambs, which adds such gloom to these primeval buildings, surely shows that one at least, and that the most venerated, of the types of the Egyptian temple was a cave, and that their pillars are the masses left to support the huge weight of the hillside while, on the other hand, it is not easy to doubt that timber-building was the origin of the Greek temple. The Greek pillar was a wooden post, its lintel a timber beam, and the whole building a holy memory of the earlier days of the race and the little wooden hall that housed the great men and gods of the tribe. Nevertheless, the two forms of capital which have gone round the world, the cushion or lotus-bud form, and the bell-shaped or open-lily form, are certainly the forms of Egyptian capitals, nor has any other radical form been invented in architecture, or perhaps can be. Whether these have been taken consciously or unconsciously from the first finished art of the world who can affirm or deny?

Now before we venture to insult the aristocratically perfect art of Periclean Greece by making an important matter of what it despised, and trying to connect the work of its hewers of wood and drawers of water with the crafts of modern Europe, let us look a little into the art of another river-valley, the land between Tigris and Euphrates. This art is important enough to our immediate subject, quite apart from the wonderful historical interest of the great empires that ruled there but there are left no such riches of antiquity to help us as in Egypt. Of Babylon, who was the mother of the arts of those regions, there is but little left, and that little not of the art in which she most excelled. What is left, joined to the derived art of Assyria, which is almost all that represents the earlier Babylonian art, seems to show us that if more yet had survived we might be nearer to solving the question of the origin of a great part of our pattern-designs and this all the more as colour was an essential of its master-art. The Babylonians built in brick (sunburnt much of it), and ornamented their wall-spaces with painted pottery, which (taking the whole story into consideration) must surely have been the source from which flowed all the art of pottery of Persia, and the kindred or neighbour lands of the East. From the very nature of this art, there are but a few scraps of it left, as I have said, and Assyrian art must fill the gap for us as well as it can. The great slabs of alabaster with which that people decorated the palaces raised on their mounds of sunburnt bricks, these things with which we are so familiar, that we are almost likely to forget the wonder that lies in them, tell us without a doubt what the type of Mesopotamian art was. It had started, like that of Egypt, from the archaic and priestly idea of art but, in Assyrian days at least, had grown less venerable and more realistic, less beautiful also, and, if one may say so, possessed by a certain truculence both of form and spirit, which expresses well enough the ceaseless violence and robbery which is all that we have recorded of the history of Assyria. Its pattern-designing takes a lower place than that of Egypt, as far as we can judge in the absence or decay of what colour it once had. Its system of colour (one must needs judge from the fragments remaining) showed no great love for that side of the art, and was used rather to help the realism to which it tended, and which, had it lived longer, would most likely have driven it out of the path of monumental and decorative art. Nevertheless, by strange accidents in the course of history, there are some of the forms of its decoration that have been carried forward into the general mass of civilized art. A great part of its patterns, indeed, were diapers or powderings, like much of Egyptian work, only carried out in a bossy, rounded kind of relief, characteristic enough of its general tendencies. These minor and natural forms died out with the Assyrian monarchy but several of its borderings were borrowed by the Greeks, doubtless through the Asiatic traders, who on their own wares seem to have used both Egyptian and Chaldean mythological figures without understanding their meaning, simply because they made pretty ornaments for a bowl or a vase. As an example of these running patterns, take the interlacement which we now nickname the guilloche, or the ornament called the honeysuckle, which I rather suppose to be a suggestion of a tuft of flowers and leaves breaking through the earth, and which learned men think had a mystical meaning beyond that simple idea, like that other bordering, which, for want of a better name, I must call the flower and pine-cone.

There is another mystical ornament which we first come upon in Assyrian art, which we shall have to come to again, but which I must mention here, and which has played a strangely important part in the history of pattern-designing this is the Holy Tree with its attendant guardian angels or demons. Almost all original styles have used this form some, doubtless, as a religious symbol, most driven by vague tradition and allured by its convenience as a decorative form. I should call it the most important and widely spread piece of ornament ever invented.

Again, before we affront the majesty of Pallas Athene by looking curiously at her sleeve-hem, rather than reverently at herself, I must say a word about the conquerors of Assyria, the Persians. To us pattern-designers, Persia has become a holy land, for there in the process of time our art was perfected, and thence above all places it spread to cover for a while the world, east and west. But in the hierarchy of ancient art the place of Persia is not high its sculpture was borrowed directly from Assyrian and Babylonian art, and has not the life and vigour of its prototype though some gain it has of architectural dignity, which the Aryan stock of the Persians accounts for, I think. Still more is this shown in the leap the Persians took in architecture proper. The palaces of the Assyrian kings do not know, or do not use the column they are one and all a congeries of not very large chambers connected by doors very oddly placed. How they were roofed we can no longer tell probably the smaller chambers had some kind of dome for a roof, and the larger no roof, only a sort of ledge projecting from the wall. The palace of the ancient Persians, on the other hand, was fairly made up of columns the walls could not have been of much importance the whole thing is as a forest of pillars that upholds the canopy over the summer-seat of the great king. For the rest, though this is the work of an Aryan race, that race had far to go and much to suffer before they could attain to the measured, grave, and orderly beauty which they alone of all races have learned to create, before they could attain to the divine art of reasonable architecture. The majesty of the ancient Persian columnar building is marred by extravagance and grotesquery of detail, which must be called ugliness faults which it shares with the ancient architecture of India, of the earlier form of which it must have been an offshoot.

We have thus touched, lightly enough, on the principal styles of the archaic type of art and have seen that our craft of pattern-designing was developed but slowly among them, and that, with few exceptions, its forms did not travel very far on the road of history. We are now come to that period of perfection which, as it were, draws a bar of light across the history of art, and is apt to dazzle us and blind us to all that lies on either side of it. As we pass from the Egyptian and Assyrian rooms at the British Museum and come upon the great groups of the Parthenon, full as we may be of admiration for the nobility of the Egyptian monuments, and the eager and struggling realism of Assyria, how our wonder rises as we look on the perfection of sculpture, cut off as it seems by an impassable gulf from all that has gone before it, the hopeless limitations, or the hopeless endeavours of the great mass of mankind! Nor can we help asking ourselves the question if art can go any further, or what there is to do after such work. Indeed the question is a hard one, and aftertimes of art, and even many cultivated people of to-day, may be blamed but lightly if they, in their helplessness, must needs answer: There is nothing to do but to imitate, and again to imitate, and to pick up what style the gods may give us amidst our imitation, even if we are driven to imitate the imitators. And yet, I must ask you above all things to join me in thinking that the question must be answered in quite a different way from this, unless we are to be for ever the barbarians which the Athenians of the time of Pericles would certainly, and not so wrongly, have called us for to me these works of perfection do not express everything which the archaic work suggested, and which they might have expressed if they had dared to try it: still less do they express all that the later work strove to express, often maybe with halting skill, seldom without some vision of the essence of things which would have been lost to us for ever had they waited for the day, never to come, when the hand of man shall be equal to his thought, and no skill be lacking him to tell us of the height and depth of his aspirations. No, even these men of Ancient Greece had their limitations, nor was it altogether better with them than it is with us the freedom of these free people was a narrow freedom. True, they lived a simple life, and did not know of that great curse and bane of art which we call luxury: yet was their society founded on slavery slavery, mental as well as bodily, of the greater part of mankind, the iron exclusiveness which first bound their society, after no long while unsettled it, and at last destroyed it. When we think of all that classical art represents, and all that it hides and buries, of its pretensions and its shortcomings, surely we shall not accuse the Fates too loudly of blindness for overthrowing it, or think that the confusion and misery of the times that followed it was too great a price to pay for fresh life and its token, change of the forms of art which express men's thoughts.

Now if you should think I have got on to matters over serious for our small subject of pattern-designing, I will say, first, that even these lesser arts, being produced by man's intelligence, cannot really be separated from the greater, the more purely intellectual ones, or from the life which creates both and next, that to my mind the tokens of the incompleteness of freedom among the classical peoples, and their aristocratic and rigid exclusiveness, are as obvious in one side of their art, as their glorious simplicity of life and respect for individuality of mind among the favoured few are obvious in the other side of it and it is in our subject matter of to-day that their worser part shows.

The pattern-designs of Greek art, under a system which forbade any meddling with figure-work by men who could not draw the human figure unexceptionably, must have been the main resource of their lower artists, what we call artisans they are generally, though not always, thoroughly well fitted for the purpose of decoration which they are meant to serve, but neither are, nor pretend to be, of any interest in themselves: they are graceful, indeed, where the Assyrian ones are clumsy, temperate where those of Egypt are over florid but they have not, and do not pretend to have, any share of the richness, the mastery, or the individuality of nature, as much of the ornament of the earlier periods, and most of that of the later, has had. I must ask you not to misunderstand me and suppose that I think lightly of the necessity for the due and even severe subordination of architectural ornament what I do want you to understand is, that the constant demand which Greek art made for perfection on every side was not an unmixed gain to it, for it made renunciation of many delightful things a necessity, and not unseldom drove it into being hard and unsympathetic. Of the system of Greek colour we can know very little, from the scanty remains that are left us. I think they painted much of their carving and sculpture in a way that would rather frighten our good taste - to hear of, I mean, though probably not to see. Some people, on the other hand, have supposed that they were all but colour-blind, a guess that we need not discuss at great length. What is to be said of it is, that certain words which to us express definite tints of colour are used in their literature, and that of Rome which imitated it, in such a way as to show that they noticed the difference between tones of colours more than that between tints. For the rest, it would be unreasonable to suppose that a people who despised the lesser arts, and who were on the look-out, first for scientific and historic facts, and next for beauty of form, should give themselves up to indulgence in the refinements of colour. The two conditions of mind are incompatible.

As to what the development of pattern-designs owes to Greek art, all that side of the craft which, coming directly and consciously from classical civilization, has helped to form the ornament of modern architecture, has, whoever invented the patterns, originally passed through the severe school of Greece, and thus been transmitted to us. Of all these ornamental forms the most important is that we choose to call the acanthus leaf, which was borne forward with the complete development of the column and capital. As I have said before, the form of the timber hall, with its low-pitched roof, its posts and beams, had got to be considered a holy form by the Greeks, and they did not care to carry dignified architecture further, or invent any more elaborate form of construction but the prodigious care they took in refining the column with its cushion, or horned, or bell-shaped capital, impressed those forms on the world for ever, and especially the last of these, the bell-shaped one, whose special ornament was this glittering leafage we now call acanthus. No form of ornament has gone so far, or lasted so long as this it has been infinitely varied, used by almost all following styles in one shape or another, and performed many another office besides its original one.

Now this question of the transmission of the forms of Greek architecture leads us at once to thinking of that of Rome, since it was by this road that all of it went which was consciously accepted as a gift of the classical times. The subject of the origin of all that is characteristic in Roman art is obscure enough, much too obscure for my little knowledge even to attempt to see into it nay, even in speaking of it, I had better call it the art of the peoples collected under the Roman name, so that I may be understood to include all the influences that went to its creation. Now if we are asked what impression the gathered art of these peoples made upon modern art, I see nothing for it but to say that it invented architecture no less. Before their time, indeed, temples took such and such forms among diverse nations, and such and such ornament grew on them but what else was done with these styles we really do not know a frivolous pleasure-town built in a late period, and situate in Italy, which destruction, so to say, has preserved for us, being the only token left to show what a Greek house might perhaps have been like. For the rest, in spite of all the wonders of Greek sculpture, we must needs think that the Greeks had done little to fix the future architecture of the world: there was no elasticity or power of growth about the style right in its own country, used for the worship and aspirations which first gave it birth, it could not be used for anything else. But with the architecture of the men of the Roman name it was quite different. In the first place they seized on the great invention of the arch, the most important invention to house-needing men that has been, or can be made. They did not invent it themselves of course, since it was known in ancient Egypt, and apparently not uncommon in brick-building Babylonia but they were the first who used it otherwise then as an ugly necessity, and, in so using it, they settled what the architecture of civilization must henceforward be. Nor was their architecture, stately as it was, any longer fit for nothing but a temple, a holy railing for the shrine or symbol of the god it was fit for one purpose as for another - church, house, aqueduct, market-place, or castle nor was it the style of one country or one climate: it would fit itself to north or south, snow-storm or sand-storm alike. Though pedants might make inflexible rules for its practice when it was dead or dying, when it was alive it did not bind itself too strictly to rule, but followed, in its constructive part at least, the law of nature in short, it was a new art, the great art of civilization.

True it is that what we have been saying of it applies to it as a style of building chiefly in matters of ornament the arts of the conquered did completely take the conqueror captive, and not till the glory of Rome was waning, and its dominion become a tax-gathering machine, did it even begin to strive to shake off the fetters of Greece and still, through all those centuries, the Roman lords of the world thought the little timber god's-house a holy form, and necessary to be impressed on all stately architecture. It is a matter of course that the part of the architectural ornament of the Romans which may be definitely called pattern-design shared fully in this slavery it was altered and somewhat spoiled Greek work, less refined and less forbearing. Great swinging scrolls, mostly formed of the acanthus foliage, not very various or delicate in their growth, mingled with heavy rolling flowers, form the main part of the Roman pattern-design that clave to the arts. There is no mystery in them, and little interest in their growth, though they are rich and handsome indeed they scarcely do grow at all, they are rather stuck together for the real connected pattern where one member grows naturally and necessarily out of another, where the whole thing is alive as a real tree or flower is, all this is an invention of what followed Roman art, and is unknown both to the classical and the ancient world. Nevertheless, this invention, when it came, clothed its soul in a body which was chiefly formed of the Graeco-Roman ornament, so that this splendid Roman scroll-work, though not very beautiful in itself, is the parent of very beautiful things. It is perhaps in the noble craft of the mosaic, which is a special craft of the Roman name, that the foreshadowing of the new art is best seen. In the remains of this art you may note the growing formation of more mysterious and more connected, as well as freer and more naturalistic design their colour, often in spite of the limitation forced on the workman by simple materials, is skilfully arranged and beautiful and, in short, there is a sign in them of the coming of the wave of that great change which was to turn late Roman art, the last of the old, into Byzantine art, the first of the new.

It lingered long. For long there was still some show of life in the sick art of the older world that art had been so powerful, so systematized, that it was not easy to get rid even of its dead body. The first stirrings of change were felt in the master-art of architecture, or, once more, in the art of building. As I said before in speaking of the earliest building that shows this movement, the Palace at Spalato, the ornamental side of the art lagged long behind the constructional. In that building you see for the first time the arch acting freely, and without the sham support of the Greek beam-architecture henceforth, the five orders are but pieces of history, until the time when they were used by the new pedants of the Renaissance to enslave the world again.

Note now, that this first change of architecture marks a new world and new thoughts arising. Diocletian's palace was built but a few years before the Roman tyranny was rent in twain. When it was raised, that which men thought would last for ever had been already smitten with its death-stroke. Let your minds go back through all the centuries to look on the years that followed, and see how the whole world is changing unheard-of peoples thrusting on into Europe nation mingling with nation, and blood with blood the old classical exclusiveness is gone for ever. Greek, Roman, Barbarian, are words still used, but the old meaning has departed from them nay, even, they may mean pretty much the reverse of what they did. Dacians, Armenians, Arabs, Goths from these come the captains of the Roman name and when the Roman army goes afield, marching now as often to defeat as victory, it may well be that no Italian goes in its ranks to meet the enemies of Rome. More wonder is it, therefore, that the forms of the old world clave so close to art, than that a new art was slowly and unobtrusively getting ready to meet the new thoughts and aspirations of mankind that modern art was near its birth, though modern Europe was born before its art was born.

Meanwhile let us turn aside from Europe to look for a little at the new birth of an ancient nation - Persia, to wit and see what part it took in carrying on the forms of decoration from the old world into the new. I will ask you to remember that, after the contest between Persia and Greece had been ended by Alexander, and when his dream of a vast European-Asiatic Empire, infused throughout with Hellenic thought and life, had but brought about various knots of anarchical and self-seeking tyrannies, a new and masterful people changed the story and Persia, with the surrounding countries, fell under the dominion of the Parthians, a people of a race whose office in the furthering of civilization is perhaps the punishment of its crimes. The ancient Parthians, like the modern Ottomans, scarcely mingled with the nations which they conquered, but rather encamped among them. Like the Ottomans, also, the decline of their warlike powers by no means kept pace with the decline of their powers of rule, or the steady advance of their inevitable doom. Artabanus, the last of the Parthian kings, turned from the victorious field of Nisibis, where he had overcome the men of the Roman name, to meet the rising of his Persian subjects which, in three days of bloody battle, swept away his life and the dominion of his race. A curious lesson, by the way, to warring tyrannies. The Roman Empire had contended long with the Parthian kingdom, had wrested many a province from it and weakened it sorely, all for this, that it might give birth to the greatest and most dangerous enemy of the Roman Empire, and one who was soon to humiliate it so grievously.

Now as to the art of these kingdoms. That of the Parthians must be set aside by treating it in the way which was used by the worthy Norwegian merchant in writing of the snakes in Iceland there was no art among the Parthians, no native art, that is to say, and scarcely any borrowed art which they made quasi-native. In earlier times Greek hands fashioned their coins and such-like matters in later they borrowed their art from the borrowed art of their Persian subjects, with whom, doubtless, they were often confused by classical writers. Neither can I say that of the art of the new-born Persian kingdom there is much left that is important in itself. I have said that much of the art of Achaemenian Persia was borrowed directly from Assyria, its wild and strange columnar architecture being the only part of it that seems to bear any relation to the Aryan race. For three hundred and fifty years the Persians lay under the domination of Turan, and certainly, to judge from what we know of their architecture during and after that time they were not receptive of ideas from other branches of their race.

The most notable works of the new-born or Sassanian Kingdom of Persia are certain rock-sculptured monuments of diverse dates, the earliest being that which commemorates Sapor the Great, and his triumph over the Roman Emperor Valerian, which happened in 260, only forty years after Artaxerxes, the first Sassanian king, had overthrown and slain the last of the Parthians on the field of Hormuz. To my mind these sculptures still show the influence of that Assyrian or Chaldean art, which is the first form that art took in Persia, though they are by no means lacking in original feeling, and are obviously and most interestingly careful in matters of costume, the Romans being dressed as Romans, and the Persians in their national dress the chief difference between this and the costume of the Achaemenian time being in the strange and, I suppose, symbolical head-dress of Sapor himself, who wears over his crown an enormous globe, seemingly made of some light material inflated. There is no mere ornamental detail in these sculptures but in a monument to Chosroes the Second, whose reign began in 590, there is a good deal of it and in this the Chaldean influence is unmistakable, and all the more marked, since it is mingled with visible imitation of late Roman figure-sculpture as well as with inferior work of the kind found in Sapor's monument. The existence of this Chaldean influence is all the more important to note because of its late date.

Besides these sculptured works, there are also left in Persia and Mesopotamia some remains of important Sassanian buildings, which, however scanty, are of great interest. To what earlier style is due the origin of their characteristic features it would be impossible to say but one thing is clear to me, that some of those features at least have been fixed on modern Persian architecture as, for example, the egg-shaped dome, and the great cavernous porch with the small doorway pierced in its inside wall, both of which features are special characteristics of that modern Persian architecture which is in fact the art of the Mussulman world. A word must be said further on a feature of the Sassanian architecture that lies nearer to our subject, the capitals of columns still existing. The outline of these is curiously like that of fully developed Byzantine architecture the carved ornament on them is in various degrees influenced by ancient Chaldean art, being in some cases identical with the later Assyrian pattern-work, in others mingled with impressions of Roman ornament but the general effect of them in any case shows a very remarkable likeness to the ruder capitals of the time of Justinian, more especially to his work at Ravenna, a fact to be carefully noted in connection with the development of that art.

Some very rich and lovely architectural carving at the palace of Mashita, wrought late in the Sassanian time, about 630, bears a strong resemblance to elaborate Byzantine work at its best it might almost be work of Comnenian Greeks at Venice or Milan: nevertheless, and this also I beg you to remember, it is as like as possible to designs on carpets and tiles done nearly a thousand years after the battle of Cadesia, under the rule of Shah Abbas the Great. Furthermore, I believe the Persians have preserved and handed down to later ages certain forms of ornament which, above all, must be considered parts of pattern-designing, and which have clung to that art with singular tenacity. These forms are variations of the mystic symbols of the Holy Tree, and the Holy Fire. The subject of the shapes these have taken, and the reasons for their use and the diversities of them, is a difficult and obscure one so I must, before I go further, remind you that I lay no claims to mythological and ethnological learning, and if I blunder while I touch on these subjects (as I cannot help doing) I shall be very glad of correction from any one who understands this recondite subject.

However, what I have noticed of these in my studies as a pattern-designer is this. There are two symbols the one is a tree, more or less elaborately blossomed, and supported, as heralds say, by two living creatures, genii, partly or wholly man-like, or animals, sometimes of known kinds, lions or the like, sometimes invented monsters the other symbol is an altar with a flame upon it, supported by two living creatures, sometimes man-like, sometimes beast-like. Now these two symbols are found, one or other, or both of them, in almost all periods of art the Lion Gate at Mycenae will occur to all of you as one example. I have seen a very clear example figured, which is on a pot found in Attica, of the very earliest period. The Holy Tree is common in Assyrian art, the Holy Fire is found in it. The Holy Fire with the attendant figures, priests in this case always, is on the coins of all the Sassanian kings the Holy Tree, supported by lions, is found in Sassanian art also. Now it is clear that the two symbols are apt to become so much alike in rude representations that sometimes it is hard to say whether the supporters have the tree or the fire-altar between them and this seems to have puzzled those who used them after the Sassanian period, when, doubtless, they had forgotten or perverted their original meaning. They are used very often in Byzantine art in carvings and the like, where again they sometimes take another form of peacocks drinking from a fountain but of all things are commonest perhaps in the silken stuffs that were wrought in Greece, Syria, Egypt, and at last in Sicily and Lucca, between the eleventh and the fifteenth centuries. In these, at first, it was a toss-up whether the thing between the creatures should be the altar or the tree, though the latter was always commonest but at last the tree won the day, I imagine rather because it was prettier than for any more abstruse reason still, even in quite late times, the fire crops up again at whiles. I should mention also, that in these later representations man-like figures are seldom, if ever, seen beasts of all kinds, from giraffes to barn-door fowls, take their place.

It would be absurd of me to attempt to be authoritative as to the meaning of these far-travelling symbols but I may perhaps be allowed to say that both the fire and the tree are symbols of life and creation, and that, when the central object is obviously a fire, the supporters are either ministers of the altar or guardian spirits. As to the monsters supporting the tree, they also, I suppose, may be guardians. I have, however, seen a different guess at their meaning to wit, that they represent the opposing powers of good and evil that form the leading idea of the dualism that fixed itself to the ancient Zoroastrian creed, the creed in which the Light and the Fire had become the recognized symbol of deity by the time of the Sassanian monarchs. I cannot pretend to say what foundation there may be for this theory, which would fuse the two symbols into one. The only thing I feel pretty certain of is this: that whatever the forms may mean, they are never found but among peoples who, it may be at the end of a very long chain, have had some dealings with the country between the two Rivers that they therefore are Chaldean in origin that, though they have been transmitted by other means in earlier days, it is to the Sassanian Persians that we owe their presence in modern art. But it is not difficult to see that such an incomplete and even languid art as that of new-born Persia, which had but little character of its own, at any rate on its ornamental side, would have had no strength to carry these strange figures so far figures which, I repeat, have played a greater part than any others among the pattern-designs of Europe and the East, however those who used them might be unconscious of their meaning. It was on another and mightier art that they were borne. The influence of Persia, indeed, was felt amongst a people ready to receive it, in a time that was agape to take in something new to fill the void which the death of classical art had made but other influences were at work among the people whose mother city was New Rome, which was a kind of knot to all the many thrums of the varied life of the first days of modern Europe.

While men slept a new art was growing up in that strange empire on which so many centuries of change still thrust the name of Rome, although the deeds and power of Rome were gone from it. Many of you have doubtless heard this art spoken of with contempt as the mere dregs of the dying art of the ancient world. Well, doubtless death was busy among what was left of the art of antiquity, but it was a death that bore new quickening with it it was a corruption which was drawing to it elements of life of which the classical world knew nothing and the chief element of life that it gave expression to was freedom, the freedom of the many, in the realm of art at least. In the earlier days the workman had nought to do but to grind through his day's work, stick tightly to his gauge lest he be beaten or starved, and then go but now he was rising under the load of contempt that crushed him, and could do something that people would stop to look at no less than the more intellectual work of his better-born fellow. What has come of that in later times, nay, what may yet come of it in days that we shall not live to see, we may not consider now. But one thing came of it in those earlier days an architecture which was pure in its principles, reasonable in its practice, and beautiful to the eyes of all men, even the simplest: which is a thing, mind you, which can never exist in any state of society under which men are divided into intellectual castes.

It was a matter of course that the art of pattern-designing should fully share in this exaltation of the master art. Now at last, and only now, it began to be really delightful in itself good reason why, since now at last the mind of a man happy in his work did more or less guide all hands that wrought it. No beauty in the art has ever surpassed the beauty of those its first days of joy and freedom the days of gain without loss, the time of boundless hope. I say of gain without loss: the qualities of all the past styles which had built it up are there, with all that it has gained of new. The great rolling curves of the Roman acanthus have not been forgotten, but they have had life, growth, variety, and refinement infused into them the clean-cut accuracy and justness of line of one side of Greek ornament has not been forgotten either, nor the straying wreath-like naturalism of the other side of it but the first has gained a crisp sparkling richness, and a freedom and suggestion of nature which it had lacked before and the second, which was apt to be feeble and languid, has gained a knitting-up of its lines into strength, and an interest in every curve, which make it like the choice parts of the very growths of nature. Other gain it has of richness and mystery, the most necessary of all the qualities of pattern-work, that without which, indeed, it must be kept in the strictly subordinate place which the scientific good taste of Greece allotted to it. Where did it get those qualities from? If the art of the East has been what it has since become, we might perhaps answer, from the East but this is by no means the case. On the contrary, though, as I have said or implied above, Byzantine art borrowed forms from Persia and Chaldea at the back of her, nothing is more certain, to my mind, than that Byzantine art made Eastern art what it became that the art of the East has remained beautiful so long because for so many centuries it practised the lessons which New Rome first taught it. Indeed, I think the East had much to do with the new life of this true Renaissance, but indirectly. The influence of its thought, its strange mysticism that gave birth to such wild creeds, its looking towards equality amidst all the tyranny of kings that crushed all men alike - these things must have had then, and long before, great influence on men's thoughts at the verge of Europe and Asia.

But surely, when we have sought our utmost for the origins of all the forms of that great body of the expression of men's thoughts which I have called modern art (you may call it Gothic art if you will, little as the Goths dealt with it), when we have sought and found much, we shall still have to confess that there is no visible origin for the thing that gave life to those forms. All we can say is that when the Roman tyranny grew sick, when that recurring curse of the world, a dominant race, began for a time to be shaken from its hold, men began to long for the freedom of art and that, even amidst the confusion and rudeness of a time when one civilization was breaking up that another might be born of it, the mighty impulse which this longing gave to the expression of thought created speedily a glorious art, full of growth and hope, in the only form which in such a time art could take, architecture to wit which, of all the forms of art, is that which springs direct from popular impulse, from the partnership of all men, great and little, in worthy and exalting aspirations.

So was modern or Gothic art created and never, till the time of that death or cataleptic sleep of the so-called Renaissance, did it forget its origin, or fail altogether in fulfilling its mission of turning the ancient curse of labour into something more like a blessing. As to the way in which it did its work, as I have no time, so also I have but little need to speak, since there is none of us but has seen and felt some portion of the glory which is left behind, but has shared some portion of that most kind gift it gave the world for even in this our turbulent island, the home of rough and homely men, so far away from the centres of art and thought which I have been speaking of, did simple folk labour for those that should come after them. Here, in the land we yet love, they built their homes and temples if not so majestically as many peoples have done, yet in such sweet accord with the familiar nature amidst which they dwelt, that when by some happy chance we come across the work they wrought, untouched by any but natural change, it fills us with a satisfying untroubled happiness that few things else could bring us. Must our necessities destroy, must our restless ambition mar, the sources of this innocent pleasure, which rich and poor may share alike, this communion with the very hearts of departed men? Must we sweep away these touching memories of our stout forefathers and their troublous days, that won our present peace and liberties? If our necessities compel us to it, I say we are an unhappy people if our vanity lure us into it, I say we are a foolish and light-minded people, who have not the wits to take a little trouble to avoid spoiling our own goods. Our own goods? Yes, the goods of the people of England, now and in time to come we who are now alive are but life-renters of them. Any of us who pretend to any culture know well that, in destroying or injuring one of these buildings, we are destroying the pleasure, the culture, in a word, the humanity of unborn generations. It is speaking very mildly to say that we have no right to do this for our temporary convenience it is speaking too mildly. I say any such destruction is an act of brutal dishonesty. Do you think such a caution is unnecessary? how I wish that I could think so! It is a grievous thing to have to say, but say it I must, that the one most beautiful city of England, the city of Oxford, has been ravaged for many years past, not only by ignorant and interested tradesmen, but by the University and College authorities. Those whose special business it is to direct the culture of the nation have treated the beauty of Oxford as if it were a matter of no moment, as if their commercial interests might thrust it aside without any consideration. To my mind in so doing they have disgraced themselves.

For the rest, I will say it, that I think the poor remains of our ancient buildings in themselves, as memorials of history and works of art, are worth more than any temporary use they can be put to. Yes, apply it to Oxford if you please. There are many places in England where a young man may get as good book-learning as in Oxford not one where he can receive the education which the loveliness of the grey city used to give us. Call this sentiment if you please, but you know that it is true. Before I go further let me tell you that our Society has had much to do in cases of what I should call the commercial destruction of buildings that we have carefully examined these cases to see if we had any ground to stand on for resisting the destruction that we have argued the matter threadbare on all sides and that above all we have always tried to suggest some possible use that the buildings could be put to. As a branch of this subject, I must ask leave to add, at the risk of wearying you, that the Society has taken great pains (and been sometimes called rude for it, if that mattered) to try to get guardians of ancient buildings to repair their buildings. For we know well, by doleful experience, how quickly a building gets infirm if it be neglected. There are plenty of cases where a parish or a parson will spend two or three thousand pounds on ecclesiastical finery for a church, and let the rain sap the roof all the while such things are apt to make the most polite people rude.

I have one last word to say on the before-mentioned restless vanity that so often mars the gift our fathers have given us. Its results have a technical name now, and are called Restoration. Don't be afraid. I am going to say very little about it my plea against it is very simple. I have pleaded it before, but it seems to me so unanswerable that I will do so again, even if it be in the same words. Yet first let me say this: I love art, and I love history but it is living art and living history that I love. If we have no hope for the future, I do not see how we can look back on the past with pleasure. If we are to be less than men in time to come, let us forget that we have ever been men. It is in the interest of living art and living history that I oppose so-called restoration. What history can there be in a building bedaubed with ornament, which cannot at the best be anything but a hopeless and lifeless imitation of the hope and vigour of the earlier world? As to the art that is concerned in it, a strange folly it seems to me for us who live among these bricken masses of hideousness to waste the energies of our short lives in feebly trying to add new beauty to what is already beautiful. Is that all the surgery we have for the curing of England's spreading sore? Don't let us vex ourselves to cure the antepenultimate blunders of the world, but fall to on our own blunders. Let us leave the dead alone, and, ourselves the living, build for the living and those that shall live.

Meantime, my plea for our Society is this, that since it is disputed whether restoration be good or not, and since we are confessedly living in a time when architecture has come on the one hand to jerry-building, and on the other to experimental designing (good, very good experiments some of them), let us take breath and wait let us sedulously repair our ancient buildings, and watch every stone of them as if they were built of jewels (as indeed they are), but otherwise let the dispute rest till we have once more learned architecture, till we once more have among us a reasonable, noble, and universally used style. Then let the dispute be settled. I am not afraid of the issue. If that day ever comes, we shall know what beauty, romance, and history mean, and the technical meaning of the word restoration will be forgotten. Is not this a reasonable plea? It means prudence. If the buildings are not worth anything they are not worth restoring if they are worth anything, they are at least worth treating with common sense and prudence. Come now, I invite you to support the most prudent Society in all England.


William Morris - History

Morris is widely credited as the founder of the arts and crafts movement. As David Raizman writes, “The spiritualization of craft, its link to social reform and skepticism toward the widely held view that industrialization and progress went hand in hand, characterize Morris's attitude and became the basis for a number of organizations and other initiatives that were generally known as the Arts and Crafts Movement.” 1

Morris originally trained for the clergy but his admiration for Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites led him to pursue a career as an artist and craftsman. A true Renaissance man, Morris was an author, artist, poet, publisher, socialist and public speaker.

Morris married the Pre-Raphaelite muse, Jane Burden, and commissioned a new residence, the Red House. Unhappy with the quality of products available for furnishings, Morris worked along with friends to create wallpaper, tapestries and furniture demonstrating good craftsmanship and design. At the project's end, in 1861, they joined together to form a business, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. By 1875, after some partnership disputes, Morris reorganized the partnership into Morris & Co.

Morris and Company, 1875

Morris's designs were influenced by the truth to nature credo of the Pre-Raphaelites. He gathered his imagery from nature and used natural and traditional methods, for example using natural vegetable dye for printing on material and printing wallpaper and textiles with wood blocks.

Morris's concept of a house as a total work of art, with all of the interior objects designed by the architect, remained a central theme throughout the Arts and Crafts movement and extended into later design movements.

Morris was a practicing Socialist but his ideals did not mesh with the realities of his business. His refusal to use modern production methods meant that his products were expensive and only afforded by the rich—not exactly the customer base that he wanted to serve. He hated the end result, “spending . life ministering to the swinish luxury of the rich.”

The Kelmscott Press, 1891

During the final phase of his life Morris combined his love for medieval literature with his craftsman workshop ethic into the Kelmscott press, the first and most influential expression of the private press movement. Joined by fellow socialist and typographic expert, Emery Walker , Morris studied incunabulum and manuscripts from which he drew inspiration for manufacturing his own paper, ink and type design.

Morris admired the letterforms of Nicholas Jenson . He photographed and enlarged Jenson's letters and used them as the basis for his own Jenson adaptation, Golden Type .

Another type design, Troy (shown above) was based upon studies of manuscript blackletter. (Please note that the versions shown here are digital recreations of Morris's type.)

In seven years of operation the Kelmscott hand-operated press published 53 books in 18,000 copies. The Kelmscott Chaucer, Morris's masterpiece, took several years to complete the 556 pages and 87 illustrations. In total 425 copies of the book were completed by a total of 11 master printers.


The Kelmscott Colophon Device

Kelmscott books re-awakened the lost ideals of book design and inspired higher standards of production at a time when the printed page was at its poorest.

Morris was fascinated not only with the design of books but wrote a number his own. His fantasy stories were a direct inspiration for C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia and influenced Tolkien's,The Lord of the Rings. Read more

Some contemporary critics deride the typefaces of Morris and his followers as artsy, not refined enough to be considered serious typography. None can dispute however, that the private press movement increased appreciation for fine printing as well as revived the field of typographic design.


Company-Histories.com

Address:
151 El Camino Drive
Beverly Hills, California 90212
U.S.A.

Telephone: (310) 274-7451
Fax: (310) 786-4462

Statistics:

Private Company
Incorporated: 1898 as William Morris, Vaudeville Agent
Employees: 600
Sales: $150 million (1997 est.)
SICs: 7922 Agents, Talent: Theatrical

Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 1998, the William Morris Agency, Inc. is America's oldest and largest talent brokerage. Over the decades, the agency established and nurtured the careers of some of the entertainment industry's brightest stars. The Morris stable has included vaudevillians George Burns and Gracie Allen, movie industry pioneers Al Jolson and Charlie Chaplin, trailblazing television personalities like Milton Berle, rock-and-roll king Elvis Presley, and scores of celebrities in between. As the prototypical agency, Morris metamorphosed through technological and geographical transitions that left other entertainment magnates behind, deftly easing from vaudeville to radio and film in the 1920s and 1930s, to TV in the 1950s, and from New York to Hollywood in the meantime.

But by the 1970s and 1980s the agency had grown complacent, certain that its stellar reputation would be more than enough to woo and keep clients. During that period five executives--and more important, several marquee celebrities--defected to found the Creative Artists Agency. Whereas William Morris had always operated behind the scenes, keeping its clients center stage, CAA came out from behind the curtain to promote itself as well as its star-studded clientele. In an industry where light can substitute for fire, it did not matter that William Morris continued to be Hollywood's largest agency--CAA was its hottest.

CAA may get burned by William Morris in the end, however. When Mike Ovitz left the upstart agency in 1995 to head entertainment powerhouse Disney, the older talent broker snapped up several big-name clients, including comedienne Whoopi Goldberg.

Late 19th-Century Foundations

The William Morris Agency's roots stretch back to New York City in 1882. That's when nine-year-old Zelman Moses and his family immigrated from Germany to the United States. The boy soon Anglicized his name to William Morris and quit school to clerk at a local grocery. Though he held a good-paying office job throughout his teen years, an economic crisis brought his first career in publishing to an end in the 1890s.

Morris went to work as a clerk for a top stage impresario in 1893 and had soon earned himself a partnership in the business. But when the owner died, his wife rescinded the partnership. Morris hung out his own shingle in 1898, establishing his monogram ("W" and "M" interwoven as four "X's") as a trademark that would stand for decades to come. In exchange for finding venues for vaudeville acts, he kept a portion--usually ten percent--of the actors' pay. Filling a void left by his former partner, Morris quickly established himself as an agent with great connections and an eye for talent.

In the first two decades of the 20th century, Morris assembled an unbeatable collection of widely known acts headlined by the likes of Scottish bagpiper and comic Harry Lauder, Oklahoman Will Rogers, and Charlie Chaplin. When the owner of a chain of theaters tried to blackball Morris and his clients, the agent formed his own confederation of theaters. Though Morris would continue to battle power-hungry theater owners through the 1920s, his control over popular talent always gave him the upper hand.

Morris's link to the entertainment world's "software"--the actors and actresses--rendered his livelihood impervious to "hardware upgrades." For example, when movies and radio began to deflate the power of the vaudeville theaters in the late 1920s, Morris took his acts to the new media. Many of his vaudevillians, including Amos 'n' Andy, Martha Raye, and George Burns and Gracie Allen, became radio stars. Others like Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers made the transition to film. The venue mattered little to Morris beyond finding a suitable fit, for no matter where his stars appeared, he received ten percent of their pay.

William Morris cheated death on a number of occasions. He was struck with tuberculosis in 1902, but after taking Dr. Trudeau's Adirondack Mountain rest cure, he returned to work in 1905. He and his wife were set to take the Titanic's ill-fated maiden voyage in 1912, but canceled the trip so that he could clear up a theater booking snafu. He was supposed to have been on the Lusitania in May 1915, but was still in New York when it was sunk by the Germans. In fact, Morris lived long enough to see his agency establish offices in London, Chicago, and perhaps most important, Los Angeles. After retiring in 1930, he died in 1932 while playing pinochle with friends at the Friars' Club.

The Great Depression and World War II

Son William Morris, Jr. became the de jure head of the agency, but it was Abe Lastfogel who truly filled the senior Morris's shoes. Lastfogel, who like his predecessor was a Jewish immigrant, had joined the talent brokerage in 1912 at the age of 14. Morris, Jr. continued to concentrate on the Los Angeles outpost, which he had headed since 1930, while Lastfogel guided the New York headquarters. By the time of Morris, Sr.'s passing, the Great Depression had already begun to take its toll on the agency it lost a combined total of $45,000 in 1931 and 1932.

The Morris Agency found an unlikely savior in Mae West, who went on to become the top grosser at the box office in the 1930s. After its initial dip, entertainment proved a Depression-hardy industry. Over the course of the decade, revenues multiplied from about $500,000 to $15 million as the agency's client roster grew to number in the hundreds. While big-name film and radio deals contributed two-thirds of this turnover, the other third came from lesser known departments, including vaudeville, nightclub, and literary management. For not only did the agency represent well-established stars but it also nurtured what it called "the stars of the future." As a William Morris Agency advertisement once stressed, "Our Small Act of Today Is Our Big Act of Tomorrow." In 1938 the agency moved its West Coast office to posh Beverly Hills. Its early real estate purchases throughout the area would become a major source of wealth in the decades to come.

The Morris Agency's contribution to the Allied World War II effort was as showbiz-oriented as anything it had ever done. Abe Lastfogel organized USO shows featuring more than 7,000 entertainers, including such luminaries as Bing Crosby, Dinah Shore, Marlene Dietrich, James Stewart, Clark Gable, and Humphrey Bogart.

Post-World War II Expansion into Television

In the postwar era Morris's roster included Mickey Rooney, Laurence Olivier, Danny Kaye, Vivien Leigh, Katharine Hepburn, and Rita Hayworth. The agency also discovered and launched Marilyn Monroe's steamy career. Morris merged with the Berg-Allenberg Agency in 1949, bringing in such Hollywood luminaries as Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Frank Capra, Edward G. Robinson, and Robert Mitchum. It also branched into television during this period. According to Frank Rose, author of a 1995 history of the agency, "in the early years the talent agencies essentially produced the shows, even lining up guests, taking care of all sorts of details." In fact, Morris agents were responsible for packaging such immensely popular productions as "The Milton Berle Show," "Texaco Star Theater," and "Your Show of Shows." "Make Room for Daddy," starring Danny Thomas, was another Morris vehicle of the 1950s.

When Bill Morris, Jr. retired from the agency in 1952, Abe Lastfogel became de facto head of William Morris. During the decade, the group represented Elvis Presley and revived Frank Sinatra's career. The agency also sparked the quiz show craze with the 1955 launch of "The $64,000 Question." Other agents booked comedy and variety acts to the nightclubs and casinos springing up in Las Vegas. These venues continued to serve as "feeders" to the film and television operations, fleshing out new talent and molding it into the next generation of movie and TV stars.

Film stars of the 1960s on the Morris roster included Anne Bancroft, Carol Channing, Katharine Hepburn, Jack Lemmon, Sophia Loren, Walter Matthau, Kim Novak, Natalie Wood, Spencer Tracy, Gregory Peck, and Barbra Streisand. The agency also expanded into the music industry during this time, representing such diverse acts as folk artists Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, British rockers the Rolling Stones, Motown divas the Supremes, and teen idols The Beach Boys.

But it was television that became William Morris's biggest moneymaker in the 1960s, contributing around 60 percent of revenues or more than $7 million by the end of the decade. According to a 1989 article in Forbes magazine, "In the mid-1960s Morris was the undisputed kingpin of the television business, with some 9 hours on network prime time."

When Abe Lastfogel retired in 1969, he generously divvied up all the agency's voting stock among its key executives and employees. He was succeeded by an attorney/accountant Nat Lefkowitz. At that time, the Morris agency was bringing in an estimated $12 million annually, and it boasted hundreds of employees at offices in New York, Chicago, Beverly Hills, London, Paris, Munich, Rome, and Madrid.

CAA Fracture in 1970s and Decline in 1980s

Though the transition from Lastfogel to Lefkowitz appeared to have been a smooth transfer of power, William Morris was fraught with internal strife. For while the agency's corps of young, eager talent brokers multiplied, positions at the top remained filled by sexagenarians. Only Phil Weltman, a high-ranking executive in the television division, was in favor of grooming a cadre of younger men for top positions. Weltman's ideas were anathema to the Morris corporate culture, which prized long-term loyalty and rewarded it with promotions, but only after decades of service. The agency was becoming a training ground for other Hollywood professions music industry executive David Geffen, television producer Aaron Spelling, and television executive Barry Diller all got their starts in the Morris mailroom.

When Lefkowitz unceremoniously canned Weltman in 1975, several of Weltman's young apprentices saw the writing on the wall. That year Rowland Perkins, Bill Haber, Mike Rosenfeld, Mike Ovitz, and Ron Meyer left to form Creative Artists Agency. The agency and other defectors soon lured more than a dozen major clients, including Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, Brian De Palma, Goldie Hawn, Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kevin Costner, Jane Fonda, Alan Alda, and Chevy Chase.

Back at Morris, Lefkowitz was bumped up to the newly established--and dutiless--post of "co-chairman," a title shared with the octogenarian Abe Lastfogel. Lefkowitz was succeeded as president by Sammy Weisbord, who had joined the agency in 1931 at the age of 19 as Lastfogel's assistant and had risen through the ranks of the television division. December 1980 brought another management reorganization. While Weisbord remained president, the two aging past presidents were dubbed "co-chairmen emeriti" and the board was expanded to include seven new members--the first newcomers since the early 1950s. It was not exactly an influx of new blood, however not one director was under the age of 50. Weisbord went into semi-retirement in 1984 and was succeeded by Lee Stevens, who guided the company until his death in February 1989. At that time, Norman Brokaw ascended to the top management position.

The frequent management upheavals of the 1980s did not do much to spruce up the Morris Agency's dulled reputation. Before long, it had become the butt of an oft-quoted joke: "How do you commit the perfect murder? Kill your wife and go to work for the Morris Agency. They'll never find you." Trade rags like Los Angeles Magazine and Variety sounded the death knell with headlines like "Whither William Morris?" and "R.I.P.?"

Of course, the obituaries for the William Morris Agency were premature, for although the business did rely heavily on past glories and the residuals they generated, it retained several big stars, including Bill Cosby, Clint Eastwood, Jack Lemmon, Tim Robbins, Uma Thurman, Tom Hanks, and John Malkovich. Moreover, estimated revenues had doubled from $30 million in 1984 to more than $60 million by the end of the decade, when the company represented about 2,000 clients.

Signs of Life in the 1990s and Beyond

In January 1991 three senior agents left the Morris Agency for a rival, taking with them a mix of well-established and up-and-coming stars including James Spader, Gerard Depardieu, Andie MacDowell, Anjelica Huston, Tim Robbins, Julia Roberts, Anne Bancroft, and Ralph Maccio. That's when former head of television Jerry Katzman ascended to Morris's presidency in 1991 with a mandate to breathe new life into the agency. Later that year, he executed what Variety characterized as "one of the first bold moves in a long time by the huge firm that was once the undisputed industry leader." The acquisition of Triad Artists Inc. brought Morris 50 agents and, more important, action film star Bruce Willis and the alternative music group the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The acquisition of the Jim Halsey Co. boosted the agency's penetration of the reinvigorated country music industry, and the purchase of Charles Dorris and Associates made Morris a leader in the growing field of contemporary Christian music.

But Morris may have gotten its biggest break in 1995, when CAA chairman Michael Ovitz--who since his departure from Morris in 1975 had become "the most powerful man in Hollywood"--left the agency he founded to join the Walt Disney Company. In the wake of this tidal wave, Morris picked up Whoopi Goldberg and re-signed Sylvester Stallone.

Jerry Katzman advanced to the post of vice-chairman in April 1997 and Arnold Rifkin, director of the film division, added the day-to-day management of the agency to his list of responsibilities. At that time the Morris roster included teen brother act Hanson, clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger, Asian action film star Jackie Chan, supermodel Cindy Crawford, and Olympic ice skater Oksana Baiul.

At 100 years old in 1998, the agency appeared to have been taken off life support and was breathing on its own. But in a world driven by the vagaries of taste and image, the William Morris Agency's health could be graded no better than stable as it perched on the cusp of the 21st century.

Bart, Peter, "Whither William Morris?," Variety, October 19, 1992, pp. 5-6.
Bernstein, Amy, and Frank Rose, "They Made Mae West a Star," U.S. News & World Report, August 7, 1995, p. 51.
Gubernick, Lisa, "Backs to the Future," Forbes, April 15, 1991, p. 10.
------, "Living Off the Past," Forbes, June 12, 1989, pp. 48-52.
Ressner, Jeffrey, "R.I.P?," Los Angeles Magazine, May 1991, pp. A61-A69.
Rose, Frank, The Agency: William Morris and the Hidden History of Show Business, New York: HarperBusiness, 1995.
------, "The Case of the Ankling Agents," Premiere, August 1991, pp. 54-61.
"The 10%ers Solution," Time, November 2, 1992, p. 19.
Waddell, Ray, "William Morris Agency Buys Dorris and Associates," Amusement Business, April 5, 1993, p. 6.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories , Vol. 23. St. James Press, 1998.


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