Forget chucking out your chintz. Learn about its origins in An Earthly Paradise, a new exhibition that highlights the British textile designer's fascination with the River Thames and how it influenced some of his most famous works..
Have nothing in your home that’s neither beautiful nor useful. We’ve all heard (and probably heeded) those wise words uttered by Arts & Crafts proponent, William Morris.
Now we have a fresh chance to get up and close and personal with one of Britain’s most famous textile designers and view never-before-seen artefacts, alongside over 50 textiles, prints, books and more, that document the way the River Thames, influenced his iconic works.
The River & Rowing Museum (supported by the V&A, British Library and Kelmscott Manor), will be featuring original printed textiles and sketches by the 19th century’s most celebrated designer, that casts new light on Morris’ lifelong passion for the river.
The Museum itself is housed in an award-winning building by world-renowned architect Sir David Chipperfield and situated in picturesque Henley on Thames, on the banks of the river Thames.
Telling this story for the first time, the exhibition explores how a lifetime spent boating and fishing infused Morris’ designs, inspired his poetry, fuelled his manufacturing, and filled his leisure time.
From 1879 the river even connected his two homes: Kelmscott House in London and Kelmscott Manor, upstream in rural Oxfordshire. Morris’ instantly recognisable textile designs including Wandle and Windrush are inspired directly from his days exploring and fishing, and passages from his celebrated 1867 epic poem The Earthly Paradise are directly drawn from enjoyable afternoons spent on the river.
Highlights from the exhibition include Morris’ original hand-drawn designs for his famous printed textiles named after Thames tributaries including Evenlode and Windrush.
The British Library’s handwritten daily journal of Morris’ seven-day boat trip with family and friends that inspired his socialist novel News from Nowhere and passed through Henley, as well as hand-carved wooden printing blocks and a 19th century furnishing fabric showcasing Morris’ celebrated indigo discharge printing method.
There is also a 2.7m long embroidery, June, featuring poetry from William Morris’ The Earthly Paradise by his daughter, and Arts and Crafts pioneer, May Morris and Morris’ socialist utopia novel, News from Nowhere, bound in vellum and signed by William Morris to his daughter May.
We even get to see William Morris’ own spectacles, pipe and fishing kit.
An Earthly Paradise: William Morris & The Thames runs from 1 February – 14 July 2019 at:
The River & Rowing Museum, Mill Meadows, Henley on Thames, RG9 1BF.
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
The museum has a café with a terrace overlooking Mill Meadows, and a shop specialising in children’s books and games, fashion and craft.
For more information visit the website here