Of the innumerable books on the design work of William Morris (1834–96) that have appeared since the 1980s, the one that has remained the best and most informative is Linda Parry’s William Morris Textiles (1983), published early on in her career as a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Since then, there has been much new research on Morris and many exhibitions of his work (at least six in Australia alone). In 1996 he was the subject of a centenary retrospective at the V&A, for which Parry was the curator and editor of the exhibition book. Two major biographies by Fiona MacCarthy – William Morris: A Life for our Time (1994) and The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination (2011) – add substantially to our understanding of Morris and his firm, Morris & Co. Interest in this remarkable Victorian – poet, novelist, artist, socialist reformer – appears to be stronger than ever, and demand for Morris-designed textiles and wallpapers is insatiable; many remain in production either as reproductions or adaptations. This new, extensively updated and rewritten version of William Morris Textiles benefits from all these later publications and exhaustive new research, deftly contextualised by Parry.
Bonfire of the vanities
William Morris – pattern designer of genius
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Christopher Menz is a former Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia (2005–10) and in 2011–12 was Acting Director of The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne. Prior to these roles, he held curatorial positions at the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of South Australia, and the National Gallery of Victoria, specialising in decorative arts. He has published extensively on the decorative arts, notably the design work of William Morris, and is a regular contributor to ABR.
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