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New gallery allows you to get up close and personal with William Morris

  •  Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry the first artist to exhibit in the new temporary exhibition gallery displaying his Walthamstow Tapestry.  (Runs until 23 Sept ‘12).
  • £10m revamp of gallery, gardens and park creates a new world-class destination to explore the life and works of William Morris, the revolutionary and globally influential designer, decorator, environmentalist and political activist.
  • New galleries, learning resources and Georgian orangery inspired extension.
  • Transformation part of Waltham Forest Council’s commitment to arts and culture
New gallery allows you to get up close and personal with William Morris

New gallery allows you to get up close and personal with William Morris

The William Morris Gallery, which is located in the artist’s birthplace of Walthamstow, London, has just been transformed into a world class destination that is an international centre of excellence at which to study Morris.

Visitors can now enjoy the most personally intense encounter with one of the 19th century’s most original and creative artists from the 2nd August, and entry is free.

William Morris was born in 1834 and was one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts Movement, he was also a supporter of the Pre-Raphaelites as well as being a social pioneer, craftsman ,designer and visionary. His work in can clearly be seen today as an influence in those fields.

The collection that is housed at the William Morris Gallery is the only one you will find anywhere in the world that represents every aspect of his work, and the way that the building has been transformed now provides the visitor with a unique opportunity to become fully immersed in the life and work of this artistic genius.

The William Morris Gallery is housed in Morris’ family home where he lived from 1848 to 1856. The 18thCentury, Grade II* listed building has been completely refurbished, revealing many of the original Georgian features for the first time and enabling people to experience the house as Morris would have done. The gardens have been restored using design and planting inspired by Morris and plans of the garden from the 18th Century.

The drive to the house has been remodelled as a circular carriageway sweep, giving a fitting, and historically accurate approach to the house. The Gardens have been restored as part of a wider refurbishment of Lloyd Park, in which the Gallery is situated.

The transformation delivers increased and fully-refurbished exhibition space with three new galleries and the chance for previously unseen works to be displayed, a library, research and education centre and a new Georgian orangery-inspired extension housing a new tearoom and balcony overlooking the gardens.

Almost 600 objects will now be on display across 12 galleries.  Many artefacts are on display for the first time and arranged across six major themes exploring different aspects of Morris’ life.

  • The deeply personal, such as a letter to his mother from her student son addressing her feelings that he lacked of ambition and her concern about him not going into the Church; a hand inscribed book for his wife, Jane, for her birthday; and his coffee cup and trusty satchel in which he carried his sketchings, essays and political pamphlets.
  • Majestic and influential works such as his first ever wallpaper design, through to the wallpaper he designed for St James’ Palace. Amidst the woven, printed, embroidered and knotted textiles is The Woodpecker – the only tapestry Morris designed alone. Some of the Firm’s earliest tiles, such as the Beauty and the Beast panel, the stained glass designs that made their name, furniture and finally the last masterpiece Morris created, the Kelmscott Press Chaucer.
  • A range of work reflecting Morris’s influence on other artists, for example the fretwork chairs designed by Mackmurdo, one of only five to exist in the world and indentified as the precursor to Art Nouveau.
  • Political thinking and writing including his utopian fiction News From Nowhere where Morris imagines a future in which capitalism, government and industry have been swept away and the countryside has replaced towns and cities.
  • The Galleries also include designs, paintings and furniture by the talented artists and craftspeople Morris surrounded himself including works by Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown and Phillip Webb.
  • Other examples online at: http://bit.ly/LMsp8r

The William Morris Gallery was first opened in 1950 by then Prime Minister Clement Attlee, reflecting Morris status to political thinking and his contribution the nation.

The redevelopment works in the Gallery have been carried out by Pringle Richards Sharratt Architects only made possible by funding from Waltham Forest Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) as well as many notable trusts, foundations, sponsors and Friends of The William Morris Gallery. The restoration of Lloyd Park has been made possible through funding from Waltham Forest Council, HLF and the Big Lottery Fund.

Chris Robbins, Leader of Waltham Forest Council, said: “The new-look William Morris Gallery is truly stunning and promises a wonderful family day out whether you’re visiting from a few streets away or another part of the country altogether.

“We’re all extremely proud to have been part of the multi-million pound development. The work has seen the building restored to its former glory and complemented by a new tearoom, a fantastic new exhibition space, beautiful surroundings and the means to have more of our collection on display than ever before.

“It’s a first-class destination and a true one-off for fans of Morris or anyone interested in art and design – fields that continue to draw influence and inspiration from Walthamstow’s most famous son to this day.”

Wesley Kerr, HLF London Committee Chairman, said:  “William Morris famously said ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’ The Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted that the representation of Walthamstow’s wonderful William Morris Gallery follows that advice; our grant of £1.6m has made the childhood home and landscape which inspired the 19th century’s most influential designer to show 50 per cent more exquisite objects in a fabulous setting.

“Morris wanted ordinary people to enjoy quality Arts and Crafts artefacts – from furniture to stained glass, tapestries to pottery – and the Gallery presents hundreds from its world class collection, inside  the now fully accessible and expanded 18th-century mansion. There’s a new cafe, fresh exhibition spaces and an exciting programme of activities which will connect Morris’s cross-cultural designs with all communities.

“The £3.5m which HLF and the Big Lottery Fund have jointly awarded to Lloyd Park means that Waltham Forest has been able to undertake  a once in a generation restoration of Gallery, ornamental gardens and Park – with its  rare medieval moat – giving a huge boost for visitors and residents.”

Grayson Perry said:  “I admire Morris for the range and depth of activity he was able to explore and the lasting influence he has had.  I love ornate pattern and this is where Morris excels, his work has a joyous sense of design that provides visual delight and is immediately accessible to everyone.  I always hope to achieve similar aims through my work which means I am extremely delighted that my Walthamstow Tapestry is the first temporary exhibition in the transformed William Morris Gallery.

 

“Morris typifies what makes places like Walthamstow special.  A place that most people think is just an ordinary part of London is actually rich with interesting people, histories and social and political activity.  My studio is in Walthamstow and that is where I designed the Walthamstow Tapestry. The most famous textile artwork for most Britons is the Bayeux Tapestry so I wanted to echo that.  But I wanted the title to reflect it is about all our lives and Walthamstow exemplifies the idea that behind the facade of the average is there so much more.”

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, designer and gallery patron said:  “Never lose sleep over what quintessential British style is because the answer is William Morris.  Like some wonderful, noisy, hand wrought machine, he devoured the raw ingredients of design history and manufactured a look that was so easy to love, so easy to live with we’ve never been able to surpass it. Even arch modernists have a soft spot for his kindly, blokey, romantically British aesthetic. And I think the real secret of his universal timeless appeal is the energetically engaging lack of any whiff of snobbery. The transformed William Morris Gallery is the place to immerse yourself in Morris’ mind and vision – I thoroughly recommend a visit”

Tony Robinson, actor, broadcaster, writer and gallery patron said:   “William Morris was not only a magnificent designer and champion of craftsmen and women, he was also a major intellectual figure, a socialist whose thinking was rooted in his English sensibility. There has always been a strong radical tradition in Walthamstow, and I think it’s particularly appropriate that his life should be celebrated here.”

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