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William Morris
Dates: British, 1834 - 1896
Biographical Account:

The writer,  painter and textile designer William Morris was born on the 24th March in Walthamstow in East London. He studied at Marlborough and Exeter College, Oxford.

He became an apprentice to the architect G E Street in 1856 and in the same year he founded the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, which was an outlet for his poetry and for the development of his theories of craftsmanship in the decorative arts. He abandoned his training as an architect and studied painting among members of the Pre-Raphaelites.


During his time in London he lived with another member of the Pre-Raphaelites, Edward Coley Burne-Jones. Here he discovered his true artistic career; he did not like the furniture available in shops and decided it was his task to design his own.

In 1861, William Morris founded the decorative arts firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. with Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown and Philip Webb as partners. The firm made carvings, stained glass, metal-works, paper-hangings, printed fabrics, and carpets.

In the 1870s Morris developed an interest in politics. He became treasurer of the National Liberal League in 1879, but left the Liberal Party and turned towards socialist politics. Morris was an important figure in the development of socialism in Britain. He founded the Socialist League in 1884. He believed that art should be for the people and by the people and that this would result in a society that valued art in everything.

Along with painting Morris also wrote and published poetry, fiction, and translations of ancient and medieval texts. His most famous works include The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems and The Earthly Paradise.


William Morris died on the 3rd October 1896. In 1950 Morris’s home in Walthamstow became the William Morris Gallery, which is still open today. A William Morris Society was also founded in 1956, which publishes a bi-annual journal and quarterly newsletter.

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