Friday, October 17, 2014

National Portrait Gallery shines light on William Morris

'Anarchy & Beauty' is a new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London which explores the life and ideas of the great Victorian artist, writer and visionary thinker William Morris. Through portraits, personal items and fascinating objects, many of which are on public display for the first time, this major exhibition illustrates Morris’s concept of ‘art for the people’ and highlights the achievements of those that he inspired.

Morris believed you should have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.  The exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery includes a host of unusually well-crafted practical objects such as an erotic garden roller designed by Eric Gill and the sandals belonging to his protégé, Edward Carpenter (loaned by Sheffield Archives), which are said to have inspired a sandal-wearing craze among left-wing intellectuals.
The exhibition, which runs to 11 January 2015, is curated by Morris’ biographer Fiona MacCarthy.  It displays the work of Arts and Crafts practitioners inspired by Morris and ‘simple life’ philosophers such as Carpenter and Gill, also 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.
The Edward Carpenter collection at Sheffield Archives:

Pictured: Edward Carpenter in sandals, 1905 (Sheffield Archives: Carp/8/31)