William Morris and Kelmscott Manor Exhibition

  • 18 Dec 2019
  • Article

A House that I Love: William Morris and Kelmscott Manor

9 July – 21 August 2020

Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1 0BE

Part of the on-going Kelmscott Manor: Past, Present and Future campaign to support the Heritage Lottery-funded major refurbishment of Kelmscott Manor and the addition of new educational and public spaces

“Surely it is worth spending a little care, forethought and money in preserving the art of bygone ages, of which so little is left.” (William Morris)

A House that I love: William Morris and Kelmscott Manor is the first-ever exhibition at the Society of Antiquaries HQ at Burlington House in London of art, artefacts and personal memorabilia from Kelmscott Manor, Oxfordshire, the idyllic country home of William Morris (1834–96), the internationally renowned craftsman, author, poet and pioneer socialist.

Curated by the Society of Antiquaries and held in the Society’s historic premises at Burlington House, Piccadilly, the exhibition comprises approximately 60 objects, including furniture, ceramics, metalwork, textiles, books, pamphlets, drawings and paintings owned by William Morris, as well as personal items such as his pocket watch and quill pen.

The exhibition, which is open for six weeks only from 9 July to 21 August, provides visitors with a rare, intimate glimpse into the private life and interests of William Morris, whom many regard as the father of the Arts & Crafts Movement.

With a few exceptions all the pieces come from Kelmscott Manor, a place described by Morris as “the loveliest haunt of ancient peace”. The house, its gardens and the surrounding landscape were particular sources of inspiration for Morris’s artistic, literary and political works.

Kelmscott Manor is currently closed to the public for a major £6 million conservation-led programme of much-needed repairs and refurbishment, which has provided the opportunity to temporarily relocate the contents.

John Lewis, General Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries, explains: “In presenting the exhibition in London we are able to reach a wider and more diverse audience who may be unaware of the significant role that Kelmscott Manor played in the life of William Morris, as well as his wife Jane and daughters Jenny and May.

The exhibition also enables us to highlight the on-going Kelmscott Manor: Past, Present and Future campaign to support the National Lottery Heritage Fund sponsored major refurbishment of the Manor and the addition of new educational and public spaces.”

Show-stopping objects in the exhibition include:

•           Jane Morris wearing a Blue Silk Dress the strikingly beautiful, iconic portrait of Jane Morris painted in 1868 by her admirer Dante Gabriel Rossetti, inscribed “famed by her poet husband, and of surpassing fame for her beauty.

•           Pastel Portraits of May and Jenny Morris, William and Jane’s daughters, also drawn by Rossetti during the idyllic summer of 1871 he spent with Jane at Kelmscott.

•           Painted Jewel Casket made by key Arts & Crafts designer Philip Webb, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Elizabeth Siddal (another of the ‘Pre-Raphaelite Sisters’), possibly as an 1859 wedding present to William and Jane.

•           Quill Pen belonging to Morris and taken from his desk at Kelmscott Manor at his death.

•           Half-Hunter Pocket Watch, 1850s, given to May Morris by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and engraved ‘Given to me by Dante Gabriel Rossetti M M’

•           News from Nowhere William Morris’s visionary time-travelling novel published in 1893 by the Kelmscott Press, its frontispiece representing Kelmscott Manor and inscribed “To May with WM’s best Love, March 25th 1893”.

•           ‘The Homestead and the Forest’ quilt designed by May Morris and exquisitely embroidered by Jane in 1890 (acquired by the Society with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund in 2015).

•           Strawberry Thief world-famous textile from the William Morris Company, 1883.

•           Under an Elm-tree (1889) and other influential socialist tracts written by Morris.

•           A Dream of John Ball and a King’s Lesson Morris’s ground-breaking socialist novel, inscribed Jane Morris from William Morris, 1st April 1888.

There are also items reflecting Morris’s fascination with Iceland, which he twice visited.

One of the most original, must-see exhibitions of the summer A House that I Love: William Morris and Kelmscott Manor provides a one-off opportunity for visitors to expand their knowledge and appreciation of the life, work and enduring worldwide legacy of William Morris.

 

Find out more about Kelmscott Manor here

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