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Morris & Co: The World of William Morris

21 January 2008

Morris & Co: The World of
William Morris

Many aspects of design has been influenced by William Morris over the last century and the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu will pay tribute to his artistic talent this year with the Morris & Co: The World of William Morris exhibition.

Drawn from the extensive collections at the Art Gallery of South Australia, Morris & Co: The World of William Morris is the first major exhibition of Morris & Co designs, textiles and furnishings ever to be seen in New Zealand. It is to be exhibited exclusively in this country at the Christchurch Art Gallery from 14 March to 29 June 2008.

Gallery Director Jenny Harper says William Morris was a remarkable man who during almost 40 years of design has left a legacy which continues to inspire designers and artists up to the present.

“It is a privilege to host this exhibition and celebrate the creative talent of a man who placed such high value on handmade quality, with individual workers completing all stages of production. The results of his commitment to the collective crafting of great design are so clearly articulated throughout Morris & Co.”

Morris & Co: The World of William Morris will feature some 100 pieces, including furniture, carpets, tapestries, wallpapers, embroideries and tiles. While most are from Adelaide, other major loans from New Zealand collections have also been secured.

“Morris’s works are exquisite design treasures, as our visitors will appreciate throughout the show,” Ms Harper says. “The rich, lavish fabrics, carpets and embroideries, intricate wallpaper patterns and beautiful handcrafted furniture will appeal to a broad audience and the Gallery is proud to be hosting this exhibition.”

Morris’s designs, inspired by the Gothic period and medieval art, in which natural forms, flowers and animals are always discernible, came to be regarded as a “true English style”. His patterns have been constantly revived since the 1960s with many designs still available today – in New Zealand as well as England and Australia.

Ms Harper says the Art Gallery of South Australia has the best collection of Morris material outside of England, thanks to the Barr Smith family who from 1889 to 1929 furnished seven huge homes – over three generations – almost entirely in Morris designed and handcrafted pieces. They also commissioned many individual pieces. Many of the William Morris works were donated to the Gallery in 1982 by the Barr Smith family, and Christopher Menz, former curator of decorative arts (and now the gallery’s director), has judiciously supplemented the collections with other purchases over the last 20 years.

William Morris’s company gained recognition at the London International Exhibition in 1862, this success resulting in some significant commissions such as designs for the interior of St James’s Palace in 1866-67 and the beautiful Green Dining Room (now the Morris Room) at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1867.

- Morris & Co: The World of William Morris will be exhibited at the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu from 14 March to 29 June 2008.
The exhibition is an Art Gallery of South Australia travelling exhibition.


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