decorated initial 'T'he Aesthetic movement of the 1880s centered on the visual nature of art. The works of this movement, which accentuate their artistic qualities, emphasize art for art's sake, abandoning the themes of moralization and life instructions found in many earlier PRB works. Aesthetic art concerns itself with the overall impression left by a series of colors and shapes. The spaces, flattened, create a patterned surface lacking an accurate representation of natural shadow and shading. The resulting image appears divided or compartmentalized. Aesthetic pieces subordinate accuracy in the depiction of subject matter for the overall impression of forms and mood.

The decorative style of William Morris highlighted this creation of mood in his view of the home as a beautiful and comfortable space with attention given to creating a harmonious feeling from his textiles, furniture and wallpapers. Morris, influenced by the PRB's imaginary, ethereal medieval scenes, attempted to overcome the banal nature of industrialized goods and return to a nostalgic ideal of medieval craftsmanship and quality. Greatly influenced by Ruskin, Morris's interior designs reflected an idea that a countries' art characterized its spirit. Morris desired to regain the expertise and quality in English product by creating luxurious, harmonious goods replacing England at the forefront of artistic talent. Morris' embroideries and textiles such as "Dove and Rose" or "Snakeshead" are formed by elaborate patterns of bright, rich colors and fabrics. The colors echo PRB paintings such as the works of Millais or Holman Hunt. Despite the layers of forms and colors, the space is flat and scenes repetitive. The organic, sinuous forms found in nature undulate across the fabric. The colors, characteristically medieval exude richness, skill and care moving England again to the forefront of design and innovation.

Questions

1. How do the forms, colors and moods of Morris' textiles reflect his poetry, for example, "Summer Dawn"?

2. The Decorative and Aesthetic movements were often responsible for replacing women in the home, going so far as to produce dressed that matched and complimented the fabrics of their furniture and wallpapers. Is this, yet again, a Rossettian attempt to inflict an inferior, dependant status upon women?

3. PRB works were sometimes seen to reach out to the lower, working classes, but Morris' textiles were far too expensive to be accessible to anyone outside of the upper class. He outwardly rejected the industrial revolution which seemed to make more available to everyone the luxuries enjoyed by the rich. How would this have been received by other PRB artists?


Victorian Web Overview Visual Arts William Morris Discussion questions for William Morris

Last modified 7 November 2004