Peacocks and Dragons: William Morris and his Reworking of PRB Strategies

Elizabeth Cvitan '07, English and History of Art 151, Brown University, 2006

Peacock and Dragon by Morrid

At first glance, the name William Morris brings to mind the Arts and Crafts movement. The commercialization and mass appeal of Morris' textile designs overshadows his close stylistic affiliation with the PRB. While the PRB often faced criticism for their avant-gardism, Morris seemed to synthesize the tastes of the public with PRB ideals.

In his Peacock and Dragon, Morris employs rich, expressive hues of oranges and reds. The rich coloration of this textile reflects the PRB concern with the artwork as a medium that evokes personal reactions and emotions in the viewer. The structured, yet almost moving quality of Peacock and Dragon also mirrors the compositions of the PRB. What is more, each area of the piece is detailed and vibrant; PRB paintings contain the same methodology.

Morris' textile designs reached a wider audience than the PRB; as painters they were significantly more limited in the distribution of their works. Nevertheless, both Morris and the PRB desired their artworks to act as a point of transformation. Made to cover the walls of a room, Morris' Peacock and Dragon creates a total environment.

Discussion Questions

1. Is Morris successful in his translation of PRB ideals?

2. What is the significance of the title Peacock and Dragon? Other than to describe the piece, did Morris choose this title as reference to something else?

3. How does this piece relate to Morris' works in other mediums? Is there a common thread between them all?

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Last modified 13 November 2004