The National Portrait Gallery Presents ANARCHY AND BEAUTY: WILLIAM MORRIS AND HIS LEGACY, 1860-1960, 10/16-1/11
From the Pre-Raphaelites to Terence Conran, the first exhibition devoted to William Morris and his influence on twentieth-century life, is to open at the National Portrait Gallery this autumn, it was announced today (Wed 28 May 2014).
Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy, 1860-1960 (16 October 2014 - 11 January 2015), curated by Fiona MacCarthy, will focus on Morris's far-reaching politics, thought and design. With portraits, furniture, books, banners, textiles and jewellery, this exhibition will include many extraordinary loans that will be brought together in London for the first time.
Starting with late Victorian and Edwardian Britain, the exhibition and accompanying book will explore the 'art for the people' movement initiated by William Morris and the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. It then displays the work of Arts and Crafts practitioners inspired by Morris and 'simple life' philosophers such as Edward Carpenter and Eric Gill, before showing how Morris's radical ideals developed through to the Garden City movement and from the Festival of Britain onwards to young post-war designers such as Terence Conran who took up Morris's original campaign for making good design available to everyone.
Key exhibits include William Morris's own handwritten Socialist Diary from the British Library, his gold-tooledhandbound copy of Karl Marx's Le Capital, lent from the Wormsley Library and Burne-Jones's spectacularhandpainted Prioresses Tale wardrobe coming from the Ashmolean in Oxford.
C R Ashbee's Peacock brooch from the V&A will be joined by Eric Gill's erotic garden roller, Adam and Eve, from Leeds City Art Gallery and Edward Carpenter's sandals from Sheffield Archive - the sandals that began the sandal-wearing craze amongst the English left-wing intelligentsia.
Curator Fiona MacCarthy says: 'Now in the 21st century our art and design culture is widespread. But its global sophistication brings new anxieties. We find ourselves returning to many of Morris's preoccupations with craft skills and the environment, with local sourcing, with vernacular traditions, with art as a vital force within society, binding together people of varying backgrounds and nationalities. This exhibition, as I see it, will not only explore what William Morris's vision was but will suggest ways in which his radical thinking still affects the way we live our lives'.
Starting with the sometimes violent state of flux of late Victorian and Edwardian Britain as a group of brilliantly radical artists, craftsmen, architects, town planners, sexual and social reformers set out to remake their world, the exhibition introduces us to Morris, a craftsman and designer of extraordinary talent who MacCarthy believes still needs to be recognised as the truly revolutionary figure that he was.
The exhibition will show how the 'art for the people' movement had its roots in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood's challenge to accepted attitudes to art and also in John Ruskin's politically radical perception that every human being has inherent creative talent and that handwork was not inferior to brainwork.