March HL - page 7

| MARCH 2019
Many of us have grown up with the intricate,
almost geometric patterns of the celebrated
British textile designer William Morris.
However, many of us will be unaware of the
visceral influence on his work exerted by the
River Thames.
A new exhibition at Henley’s River and
Rowing Museum explores the significant
influence of our river, and its tributaries on
one of Britain’s most important textile
The exhibition is supported by the V&A, the
British Library and Kelmscott Manor.
An Earthly Paradise: WilliamMorris & The
features original printed textiles and
sketches by the 19th century’s most
celebrated designer and casts new light on
Morris’s lifelong passion for the river.
The exhibition tells this story for the very first
time and explores how a lifetime spent
boating and fishing infused Morris’s 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
Morris’s instantly recognisable textile
designs including Wandle andWindrush are
inspired directly from his days exploring and
fishing in the upper reaches.
Passages from his celebrated 1867 epic
The Earthly Paradise
are directly drawn
from pleasurable afternoons spent on the
“The River & Rowing Museum brings the
River Thames to life – a window on its
cultural, social and natural history. As one of
our most celebrated designers, it’s
fascinating to understand how the river
flowed through William Morris’s work,
inspiring his creative practice and core
beliefs, based on his lifelong love of angling,”
said Dr Sarah Posey, Director of the RRM.
”His designs are instantly recognised around
the world as quintessentially British. This
one-of-a-kind exhibition explores what
shaped his vision.”
The exhibition, in an intimate gallery, fills
the visitor’s vision with Morris’s stunning
designs, as fresh and bright as new.
However, it also traces the history of his
work including artifacts such as his socialist
utopia novel,
News from Nowhere,
bound in
vellum and signed by William Morris to his
daughter May Therese.
There is a mocked-up room with his
distinctive designs on the wallpaper, curtains
and chair seat, and this encourages visiting
children to become involved in Morris’s
Some of the intricately carved wooden
printing blocks are also on display along with
fascinating explanations of how Morris
achieved his glorious patterns, and the
influence of natural dyes and colours on his
The exhibition is a fascinating insight into
why those so familiar patterns and prints are
named after our local rivers such as The
Evenlode, Windrush, Kennett and Loddon.
An Earthly Paradise:
WilliamMorris & The Thames
Runs until July 14
River and Rowing Museum
Monday to Sunday 10am to
Adult Ticket £12.50, child
(4-16) £9.95
Unlimited entry for 12 months
For info or more
admission prices
Tel: 01491 415600
Inspired by
“Ornamental pattern-
work must possess
three qualities: beauty,
imagination and order”
William Morris
the River Thames
Images courtesy of the V&A. Top left: Loddon. Left: Evenlode.
Above: The exhibition covers how William Morris became a socialist
and tried to run his thriving business within these parameters
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