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No grief on the green hillside, no pity in the sky, Joy that may not be spoken fills mead and flower and tree. ~William Morris
Art Nouveau grew out of the mid-century Pre-Raphaelite Arts & Crafts movement and took hold in the 1890s, at a time when Morris's artist attentions had shifted to Kelmscott Press. (see the Kelmscott Chaucer tiles.)
Early Art Nouveau is flowery and asymmetrical; later Art Nouveau has a distinct Asian influence. As always, these overlap. The Anemone and Poppy Tiles show a strong Asian influence in these turn-of-the-century tiles by Walter Crane.
Better known for his illustrations and paintings, Walter Crane collaborated with Morris's Pre-Raphaelite circle as early as Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co. (1861-1875) as well as for the restructured Morris & Co. thereafter.
The two men were friends and collaborated both professionally and politically. Crane, like Morris, was a decided Socialist and as the turn of the century approached, many of the Socialist League's pamplets contained illustrations and drawings by Crane as well as text by Morris.
Shown is a Walter Crane illustration to Beauty and the Beast. Beauty's cloak is resplendent in a Morris-like pattern while a pastoral Eden on the back wall is reminiscent of the medieval tapestries that inspired William Morris's The Forest.
Crane openly supported the Arts & Crafts movement:
The movement represents in some sense a revolt against the hard mechanical conventional life and its insensitivity to beauty. It is a protest against that so called industrial progress which produces shoddy wares, the cheapness of which is paid for by the lives of their producers and the degradation of their users. It is a protest against the turning of men into machines against artificial distinctions in art, and against making the immediate market value or possibility of profit the chief test of artistic merit. It also advances the claim of all and each to the common possession of beauty in things common and familiar. ~Walter Crane on the Arts & Crafts Movement
Flora's Train, also known as Flora's Retinue is a set of six earthenware tiles. Although they appear to be tube lined, a relatively expensive process, they were not. Rather the outlines of the patterns were pressed in relief giving the appearance of tube lining. (Note that these reproductions are not relief tiles, however). Crane also produced a set of porcelain plates for Minton Co.
The Flora's Train tile set appeared a decade after Crane published Flora's Feast, A Masque of Flowers.
Tiles shown, from top left: Anemone, Columbine, Daffodil, Cornflower, Bluebell, Poppy.
Designer: Walter Crane for Pilkington Tile and Pottery
Date: About 1900
4.25 inch tiles: $470 / set
6 inch tiles: $560 / set
8 x 8 inch tiles: $810 / set
I am the handmaid of the Earth, I broider fair her glorious gown, and deck her on her days of mirth, with many a garland of renown, and while earth's little ones are fain, and play about the mother's hem, I scatter every gift I gain, from sun and wind to gladden them.
Flora is the Roman goddess of flowers and the season of Spring. A relatively minor goddess in both Roman and Green culture (where her equivalent is Chloris), Flora is nevertheless an ancient goddess, both in Roman and other ancient cultures.
In modern times, you may know her festival as May Day or Beltane. The earliest May Day celebrations, known as the Floralia, included six days of games between April 28 and May 3 each year, during which time games were held and multi-colored dress was customary. On the final seventh day, the Rose Festival, was held each May 23 in Flora's honor as well.
Evelyn De Morgan, wife of Morris's friend William De Morgan, also painted Flora.