PROGRESS AND NOSTALGIA
The pre-industrial age was one of great disparity. The economical and social distance between the upper class and the lower class was astronomical, in fact there’d barely been a middle class. The industrial revolution changed all that by having a place that vastly altered the flow of people, money and social power.
With the industrial age, efficiency and massive quantities of output was the main aims for many. This affected the aesthetics of the time to suit this demand or “need”. How ever this progress was not always appreciated by all, William Morris was one such example.
William Morris was a multi-disciplinary artist from the 19th Century. Aside from the many various fields of art he was involved in, he was also known for his distaste of the objects being manufactured by factories at the time; considering them cheap and ugly.
He was much fonder of the older style of design from the medieval ages. It is this style that he sought to adhere to as much as possible with the designs and products he churned out.
Fascinatingly with the idea of how much he romanticised the designs of old, he branched off into this emulation that sprouted into an influence that carries on today. William Morris is not without his ironies however, for example despite his political views as a Socialist, his business was run more for personal gain and despite his Atheism, wanted to be buried at a Church. And possibly worst of all (for him I’d say) was that despite being a huge purveyor of having affordable, beautiful or functional things, the items sold by Morris were simply too expensive to be available to the public as a whole. An interesting parallel in William Morris’ life; in his fixation on Medieval/Gothic Cathedrals and their collaborative style of design and construction; similarly he and his friends were also called to paint the ceiling of a Union building. Funnily enough, it was only passed to him due to his friend (and biggest detractor) Dante Gabriel Rossetti being unable to get the job going himself, yet another irony in Morris’ life.
Despite all his shortcomings, his “wife’s” infidelity, his odd friendships, and eclectic personality and life-choices, William Morris to this day has had a lasting impact on the world in many fields, and fortunately, not just posthumously.
*apologies, didn’t link this to the History of Graphic Design page*