William Morris - First Designer
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William Morris – First Designer

The profession of designer today is popular and in demand. Specialists in this field make sure that our phones, cars, furniture and household items are not only functional, but also aesthetically pleasing. This is because a person is attracted by the craving for the beautiful, the lack of which is especially felt in everyday life from the beginning of the “conveyor era”. The British pre-Raphaelite artist William Morris, the first designer in history, sought to fill everyday life with beauty and restore a sense of harmony with nature, from which people were so distant.
The basis of Morris’s aesthetic views was the ideas of the famous art critic John Ruskin, who believed that the subject environment of a society testifies to its moral state, and beauty manifests itself in fidelity to nature. In turn, the style of the things created by Morris was influenced by the art program of the Pre-Raphaelites, to which William himself certainly attributed, although the only painting he painted was criticized by the leader of the fraternity Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

The painting of W. Morris “Queen of Guinevere” (“The Beautiful Isolde”), 1858. The model for creating the image of the “beautiful lady” from medieval courteous literature was the artist’s wife and the Pre-Raphaelite muse Jane Burden.

William Morris was inspired by the craft traditions of medieval craftsmen, because every hand-made thing is unique and inimitable, unlike factory products. Therefore, he founded the “Arts and Crafts Movement” – a group of like-minded artists who are convinced that an aesthetically thought-out living environment can contribute to human development. The group’s first project was the Red House, a Morris mansion designed by him in accordance with his own taste standards.
The Red House in Bexleyheath, England (1859-1860), architect Philip Webb. The house got its name because of the color of unplastered brick. In the photo there is a yard with a well. The building itself did not have a main facade, the plan developed asymmetrically in all directions, which was an innovation for the Victorian era.


The house was reminiscent of medieval buildings in terms of simplicity of decoration: the red brick building was not plastered, and the internal white walls were shaded with stained-glass windows, woven carpets, tapestries and expressive furniture made according to the drawings of the owner of the house.
Living room “Red House”. U. Morris himself, his wife, as well as the leading masters of the “Brotherhood of the Pre-Raphaelites”: D.G. Rosetti, E. Burne-Jones, E. Siddal.


Seeking to return everyday life to the splendor of the Middle Ages, Morris founded a company that produced trellis, wallpaper, ceramics and handmade furniture, as well as a printing house, which paid special attention to the decoration of books. All items made under the direction of Morris, were distinguished by simplicity of form, grace and functionality.
“Lattices” – the first wallpaper created in 1862 according to a drawing by W. Morris. According to the author, the sketches were drawn from the rose bush of his own garden.

Fragment of the “Woodpecker” tapestry, designed by William Morris, 1885

The Kelmscott Chaucer (1896). The task of the publishing house of W. Morris “Kelmscott-press” was the revival of the traditions of medieval printing and decoration of folios. For the publication of “Works” by Jeffrey Chaucer, Morris designed a unique font and ornaments, and Burne-Jones created the illustrations.


Unfortunately, the dreams of the socialist Morris to fill the middle class with the beauty of everyday life were not destined to be fulfilled. Each thing of the company was created according to an individual project and made manually, only high-quality natural materials were used, which incredibly increased the cost of the product. Carpets woven on a traditional loom were accessible only to the elite of society.
W. Morris put a loom at home and practiced several hours a day. The artist was assisted by his daughter, May Morris. Morris also equipped his workshop in Merton Abbey with machine tools, fabrics were dyed with natural dyes, and patterns were printed on textiles.


Wanting to realize his aspirations to ennoble the everyday life of ordinary people, Morris released the famous “Sussex” chairs, created in the tradition of English rural houses of the XVIII century. They were very inexpensive, so they were incredibly popular, they were even called by the people “furniture of good citizens.” Nevertheless, most Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co. products never entered the homes of mass consumers.
Sussex chairs with wicker seats were simple, functional, and most importantly, inexpensive.


The work of William Morris and his associates opened a new page in the history of the interior. Excessive pomposity in bourgeois houses gave way to simplicity and convenience, and anonymized factory products to handmade items made from natural materials. The aesthetic principles proposed by Morris formed the basis for

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