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The Columbine Tile by William Morris
(Photo credit: artpassionsnet)


Yesterday, I decorated an appreciation post by inserting a picture of one tile, William Morris‘s Columbine Tile.

So let me now honour its creator: William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896).  I found a picture of this tile on a website you can access by clicking on William Morris.  Moreover, the tile is on the market.

William Morris is remembered mainly as a textile designer.  I became acquainted with his work when I visited the Metropolitan Music of Art, in New York.  But my interest grew when I realized that he was the illustrator of the 1896 Kelmscott Press edition of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343 – 25 October 1400).

Morris’s illustrations are reminiscent of illuminated medieval books, books enhanced by enluminures or illuminations are now prized chiefly because of their fine calligraphy and their enluminures.  As I noted a few days ago, we remember John Amos Comenius because he published the first illustrated textbook.

However, let us return to William Morris to tell that he was also a writer.  Among other works, he wrote News from Nowhere (1890), a book considered as utopian.  He was also a predecessor to J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and J. K. Rowling, in that he published a fantasy novel entitled The Well at the World’s End (1896).

In the world of fine arts, Morris is associated with two Movements:

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

Pre-Raphaelites championed the art of Michelangelo and, particularly, the paintings of Raphael, or Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (6 April or 28 March 1483 – 6 April 1529), not to mention Leonardo da Vinci.  So here we are once again at the Renaissance court of Urbino, the court where Castiglione observed courtly behaviour.  Il Libro del Cortegiano (The Book of the Courtier), published in Venice in 1528, is a description of courtly life as Castiglione knew it from his long stay at the court of Urbino. The Louvre houses Raphael’s portrait of Castiglione.

The Arts and Crafts Movement

As for the Arts and Crafts Movement, William Morris founded the Movement.  He had been inspired by the writings of John Ruskin (1819–1900), the foremost art critic of his time.  Members of the Movement were traditionalists and advocates of fine design and decoration, values often belittled by artists whose works require a neutral background in order to be best shown.  Beauty is everywhere, including in the manner one sets food on a plate.

Design for Trellis wallpaper by William Morris, 1862

Design for Trellis wallpaper by William Morris, 1862 (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

William Morris is also associated with Sir Edward Burne-Jones (28 August 1833 – 17 June 1898), a friend and a business partner.  Sir Edward Burne-Jones’s paintings can be mistaken for medieval works.

The tile I have shown is a classic on the art of gradation.  The design is dark at the very bottom, which sits it, so to speak, and then, as we near the top, the blues mutate progressively to lighter and nuanced shades of blue.


© Micheline Walker
16 November 2011