Monday, August 22, 2005

William Morris

The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney is hosting a William Morris exhibition and I attended a high tea to celebrate the opening. Apart from the delicious cucumber sandwiches and the lightest sponge cake I have eaten for a long time, the exhibition was a complete delight.
At left is the bookmark I received at the opening, featuring the Willow boughs wallpaper design. It is quite amazing how fresh and modern this pattern looks, although it was designed in 1887. The exhibition features carpets, curtains, wallpapers and upholstery, including some absolutely gorgeous silk-embroidered table toppers and a six-foot-tall three-panelled embroidered screen with elaborate silk embroidery all over it, featuring fruiting trees lavishly entwined with vines, flowers and birds. Many of the embroidered items were purchased as kits from Morris & Co, with the embroidery worked by members of the family who purchased the kit. Thinking of the hours of needlework involved in something like the screen is mind-boggling.
However, the most interesting thing I learned about William Morris was not his design work but the fact that he lived in an erotic menage a trois with his wife Jane and his friend (and her lover) Dante Gabriel Rosetti. Salacious gossip can trump decorative excellence every time.

No comments: