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T J Cobden-Sanderson the bookbinder and printer was another gentleman craftsman to emerge from within the Morris circle. Indeed it was Jane Morris who first suggested bookbinding to Cobden-Sanderson who was then drifting in career terms as a barrister.

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Vase and cover painted in lustre 1888-98 by William de Morgan, one of the ‘gentlemanly artisans’ whom Morris supported and encouraged. ‘His outpouring of bowls, vases, dishes, with their enamel underglaze, lustre glazes and ebullient decoration of birds, fish and mythic creatures, were not only the most strangely endearing of that period’s pottery, they were also the most technically brilliant’ (Fiona MacCarthy).

La Belle Iseult 1858 by William Morris 1834-1896

Jane Morris as La Belle Iseult 1858 is the only completed easel painting that William Morris produced. It is a portrait in medieval dress of Jane Burden, whom Morris married in April 1859. Bearing in mind that in 1880 Morris said famously, ‘Have nothing in our houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful’, this painting is particularly fascinating because it so messy! Iseult appears to have recently arisen from her bed, where a small greyhound lies curled up among the crumpled sheets.Many of the furnishings such as the Turkish rug, Persian embroidered cover and whitework hangings on the bed were probably in Morris’s personal collection.

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Influenced by William Morris’s ideals and aesthetic, this chair was first made by Phillip Clissett, a chair-maker from Herefordshire, in 1888. It was used to furnish the Meeting Room of the Art Workers Guild in London.  We have one in the office, bought when the Art Workers had a fund-raising sale. Do ask to sit on it next time you are in the shop! On the Post next week: other designs which were influenced by William Morris.

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‘The exhibition uses Morris’s key principles of Unity, Craft, Simplicity and Community as a lens to explore the early years of the Bauhaus… (which) embraced a diverse range of ideas and aesthetics as it adopted and adapted the messages of the Arts and Crafts movement in its quest to design a better world.’ This is the Glass Painting workshop in Weimar in 1923.

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The exhibition at the William Morris Gallery (which opens next week, details here) will put this 1923 Marcel Breuer chair beside yesterday’s Morris table and says that it is similarly ‘simple bits of wood put together in an interesting way.’ Some of us would find the comparison between Morris and Bauhaus a bit tenuous, but it’s thought-provoking.

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There is an exhibition at the William Morris Gallery in east London showing the subtle connections between the work of William Morris and his circle, and the Bauhaus. ‘One of the shared characteristics is simplicity’ wrote the FT, ‘an emphasis on purpose and a respect for materials… in the context of high Victorian design his pared-down aesthetic was absolutely radical.’ If only the missing link of Karin Larsson was not always, well, missing! So this table is in the exhibition but again no word of Karin – it is meant to link with a Bauhaus chair (cf. tomorrow’s Post). Ah well, Persephone readers hold Karin in their heart at least.

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And of course Karin’s rocking chair (on the Post the week before last) must have originated with William Morris – the subject of the Post this week. ‘The “Morris Chair” was a pioneering version of a reclining chair, with a reclining back, moderately high armrests, and notches to adjust the degree of slant desired. It was reportedly adapted by Morris and Co. in 1866, from a prototype owned by Ephraim Colman in rural Sussex.’

gunta stizi

Famously, Bauhaus women were allowed into the weaving workshop but barred from other Bauhaus departments. Female students such as Gunta Stölzl, who later became head of the weaving workshop, taught themselves many technical and practical skills there. This is her 1927-8 tapestry. Forty-five years later it was used as the model for Sarah Campbell and Susan Collier’s Bauhaus fabric. So Karin Larsson started something which stretched for  75 years.

wassily chair Breuer 1925-6

Yesterday’s chair looks far less comfortable than Karin’s rocking chair. Somehow the aesthetic has been masculinised (is that a word?) cf. the fascinating Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez which points out that THE WORLD is designed for masculinist (?) values. (We sell her book in the shop of course.) The Wassily Chair by Marcel Breuer 1925-6 is something that no woman would voluntarily sit on.

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