Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris and his legacy

Category: Art, General, Academic

On Sunday 11th January a party from the College visited the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. 

As a pupil at Marlborough, William Morris (Aa 1848-51) learned to love architecture and the beauty of the countryside. The rebellion at the College 1851 taught him a certain amount about social change, and in later life he detested violent protest of any form. 

Other Old Marlburians appeared in this show, such as the Art Nouveau stained glass designer Selwyn Image (C1 1864-68), Ambrose Heal (LSch 1885-87), the furniture maker who founded the well-known store, and the letter carver David Kindersley (B3 1929-30).  Sir Edward Burne-Jones, the Pre-Raphaelite artist, sent his son to Marlborough on Morris’s advice. 

The exhibition told the story of the Pre-Raphaelites and the Arts and Crafts Movement, and also the far reaching influence of Morris’s social vision which remains an inspiration for many. Here are views of current pupils who visited the exhibition:

Rowley Haynes
(LI U6)

The exhibition was both beautiful and insightful, demonstrating the life of Marlborough's very own William Morris. It outlined his works and others which assisted him develop his practice. I was most surprised by Morris's dexterity as he put his hands expertly to such a range of medium from wall paper to political activism.

Katie Rolls (MM U6)

Yesterday's outing to the National Portrait Gallery, visiting the William Morris Exhibition was highly informative, particularly with Dr Hamilton sharing his endless knowledge on the subject. Five artists/art historians were invited on this trip to Trafalgar Square, and I was lucky enough to join them. Meeting the deputy chairman of Lloyd's was a pleasure, and I'm sure he enjoyed the exhibition as much as we did, and had a chance to pop into the National Gallery once the trip was over. I must say a huge thank you to Mr Copp who organised the event and gave us the opportunity to appreciate this OM's artwork.

Flora Stafford (MM U6)

After being given the opportunity to appreciate some stunning works inside the National Gallery and a lunch rounded off by a superb briefing from Dr Hamilton, we made our way to the National Portrait Gallery. The Morris exhibition is situated in the Ondaatje Wing, and although small, is packed full of the works and objects of Morris and those associated with him, for example poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. What was perhaps most fascinating was Morris' devotion to the Arts and Crafts Collective in conjunction with his spectacular visions about how art can improve the happiness of people everywhere. Alongside this, his creation of several famous prints and his commitment to a socialist vision single him out as an extraordinary figure in history. In the words of Exhibition Curator Fiona MacCarthy, Morris was 'one of those men whom history will never overtake'.

Clemmie Keyes (MO U6)

During our trip to London we were lucky enough to stop by the National Gallery. It was a treat to be able to visit a gallery with such a magnificent collection of artwork. This was followed by a delicious lunch in the National Portrait Gallery, where we met Mr and Mrs Barnes. Mr Barnes is an (B1 1973-79) and currently Deputy Chairman of Lloyd's. The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein, a painting which we saw earlier in the morning, was a delightfully interesting topic during lunch.

The exhibition, titled 'Anarchy and Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy', includes many artefacts such as his diary, furniture, portraits and other possessions. Previously knowing very little about William Morris, I came out of the exhibition full of interesting facts about him and his wide circle of friends. William Morris as an exhibition is, as the Telegraph correctly described it, 'a subject too big for any one show.' During the visit what captivated my attention the most was his wallpaper design, titled Daisy, which was the first to be issued by Morris, in 1864. Daisy was based on a wall hanging illustrated in a 15th Century version of Froissart's Chronicles. I was utterly shocked at how much Morris had achieved in his life-time, and to be able to see his artistic talent in the flesh is an amazing experience. 


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