Peacocks and paradise: William Morris at Tate Britain

Before Christmas, we trotted off to Tate Britain to meet some friends and visit the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition. The highlight of the exhibition, as far as I was concerned, was room number six, entitled Paradise. A room devoted to William Morris.

Peacock and bird carpet, William Morris
© William Morris Gallery, London

I flipping love William Morris. I love the ornate details, the colours, the grandeur, I love how his designs are fabulously floral without being twee.

But what really inspired me, aside from the individual beauty of the designs, was seeing all of his different work in this room and realizing just how much he was involved with.  There’s wallpaper, of course, textiles, curtains, books with stunningly ornate wood engravings… There’s even his four poster bed,  festooned with the Kelmscott Tree fabric.

As the Tate website says, his firm, “produced tiles, furniture, embroidery, stained-glass, printed and woven textiles, carpets and tapestry for both ecclesiastical and domestic interiors, examples of which are included in this room. In 1891 Morris founded the Kelmscott Press for the production of high quality hand-printed books.”

That’s quite a list! Everything from fabric to furniture, glass to books. For someone with plans and desires to set up a new fabric business, but who has a serious problem trying to weed through millions of different ideas and settle on doing one solitary thing, this was just what I needed to see. Why not try and do a bit of everything?!

Of course, my biggest problem is that I don’t exactly have the talent that William Morris did. But realising that even the greats sometimes take a scattergun approach, rather than refining and refining one specific discipline, was highly encouraging to me.

I didn’t take any photos of the room (well, you’re not allowed to, so I obeyed the rules), but I strongly recommend a visit if you’re in London before January 13th. There are all the details on the Tate website:  Pre Raphaelites, Victorian Avant-Garde.

Here, though, are a few William Morris patterns that are currently available, which are bringing me a bit of joy and good cheer on this gloomy January morning. I hope they do the same for you.

All photos are copyright Morris & Co and if you click on the photo you can go straight through to their website.

William Morris wallpaper
Fruit wallpaper, designed in 1864
Kelmscott tree fabric from Morris & Co
Kelmscott tree fabric, inspired by the curtains on Morris’s four poster bed
Kennet by Morris and Co
An original William Morris design, this is called Kennet. I think it’s simply stunning

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