I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature. ~Jane Austen
When William Morris built Red House, his first married home, it became a gathering place for a circle of Pre-Raphaelite artists, Burne-Jones, Rossetti, and others. Red House was designed by William Morris in collaboration with his friend, architect Philip Webb. 'The Firm' (Morris, Marshall, and Faulkner) was conceived with friends after a dinner at Red House, later dissolved, and Morris & Co. formed. Pre-Raphaelite ceramics master, William De Morgan, began his career in stained glass at Morris & Co. but his interests and gift for ceramics inspired him to establish his own tileworks.
At the center of Arts & Crafts, is a philosophy, and a reactionary one at that: To elevate the decorative arts to the level of fine art, and to make them personal and accessible.
The first Victorian tiles were mass-produced inlaid, printed, or Delftware tiles. Morris took exception to what he considered low quality in mass-produced decorative arts but some mass-produced tiles were quite robust. The Arts & Crafts movement was reactionary, advocating a return to the medieval craftsmanship and quality. This didn't happen overnight.
Early Victorian tiles were symmetrical and characterized by geometric shapes, often mass produced by such companies and Minton Co. Arts & Crafts tiles are a subtype, characterized by natural motifs and bright colors and individual or small-run production methods, but often were installed to form geometric patterns with a natural theme. >
The term Victorian often encompasses Edwardian as well, extending our scope to a century. Morris and De Morgan fall within that scope, while the later Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau styles have their beginnings there.
* Victorian Tile Catalog
* Victoriana: Blue and White - Ships, Birds & Beats, Kelmscott
* Blue and White Florals and Foliage, Blue and White Textiles
Victorian Nursery Tiles
The House that Jack Built
Monoceros Star Map
Ladies Flower Garden of Ornamental Annuals
My work is the embodiment of dreams in one form or another. ~William Morris
William De Morgan is the father of Arts & Crafts ceramics. He met Morris and Burne-Jones in 1863 and began working at 'The Firm' with other Pre-Raphaelite artists in Morris's circle. He began in stained glass but his talents and interests soon led to his taking over tile production for the company. Rossetti introduced him to CS Lewis, which resulted in Lewis choosing De Morgan tiles for his rooms at Oxford. That I have more tiles based on De Morgan designs that Morris designs is no accident; he was as prolific as Morris but his primary focus was ceramics.
A little defining of terms is called for. Although Morris is considered the founder of the Arts & Crafts movement, the term doesn't always mean Morris, and sometimes refers to mass-produced American Craftsman furnishings produced some 70-80 years later. See Why Arts & Crafts is not Craftsman.
For Morris, De Morgan, Burne-Jones and friends, the defining character of Arts & Crafts is the underlying philosophy and the way the tile is made. William De Morgan, considered the father of Arts & Crafts ceramics, made blue and white ship tiles in small runs for Morris & Co; that's Victorian style Arts & Crafts. Minton and others mass-produced blue and white ship tiles, Victorian but not Arts & Crafts.
Morris-influenced tiles lend themselves well to more rustic Arts & Crafts homes.
* Article: Why Arts & Crafts is not Craftsman
Birds and Betray: Morris in Iceland
Kelmscott Chaucer tiles
Glasgow School Arts & Crafts
Charles Rennie Macintosh Flowers
CFA Voysey Tiles
Glessner House Fireplace
A.R. Valentien California Botanicals
Without order, neither the beauty nor the imagination could be made visible. William Morris
In Red House, as well as Kelmscott Manor, Morris preferred tapestries to wallpaper. The production cost of tapestries was high and made them out of the reach of most people Morris's compromise was wallpaper.
We can be certain that some Morris & Co. designs such as Acanthus, Brother Rabbit, and Strawberry Thief are Morris's own designs. Other designs, however, were collaborations or done by others and attributed to Morris or John Henry Dearle. I've separated these into different sections.
Morris & Co. designs include William Morris collaborations such as 'The Forest' with Philip Webb animals, well work started by Morris but finished by others, as well as work that shows a strong Morris influence (see, for example, Golden Lily and Woodland Weeds) but are attributed to Morris & Co. designers particularly Dearle, and May Morris.
Jane and May Morris Backstory Overview and Tile Listing
Tiles from Tapestries and Textiles
Margaret Macdonald, The Four Queens
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.)
Art Nouveau is an enormous field, as large or larger than Arts & Crafts but shares its origins with traditional Arts & Crafts. Like the Arts & Crafts movement, it is reactionary, focusing more on a stylized reaction to 19th century sentimentality than to the soulless industrial manufacture of art. Though born in England, Art Nouveau then spread to the contient, where it was called Jugenstil (in Germany) and by other names in the countries where it took hold.
The Art Nouveau tiles you find here are those made by Morris's peers and contemporaries, not the tubed or relief tiles that came later.
Flora's Train: Walter Crane Art Nouveau Flowers
Art Nouveau Crowns: Medieval Flowers & Feathers, Anton Seder, 1890
Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh: The Four Queens
De Morgan's early tiles have natural and fluid lines, showing the strong influence of William Morris. His later tiles became more stylized, as shown in this crowned kingfisher, far different from the natural lines in many of his other fantastic birds and beasts.Art Nouveau Dragons with Victorian Borders
Art Nouveau Predators
For every locomotive they build, I will paint another angel. ~Edward Burne-Jones
Victorians had a strong interest in Medieval art and culture, myths and legends - Chaucer, Camelot and the search for the Holy Grail. William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones met at Oxford, beginning a friendship that would last a lifetime. They traveled through Belgium and northern France, where the Gothic churches left a lasting impression.
Their love of things medieval spanned literature, architecture, painting, bringing the mythic medieval worldview into reality in Red House. Its the walled garden was arranged in a medieval fashion, and Morris and Philip Webb researched and selected the plants he would put there. The house itself, was built along the path that Chaucer's pilgrims would have traveled on their way to Canterbury. Furniture, walls, embroidery was designed and executed by Jane, William and their friends, all in a medieval context.
These tiles are in the larger circle of Morris's medieval interests:
At Morris &. Co., designs for one medium were often translated into another medium. The Pre-Raphaelite artists here are "second wave", primarily Burne-Jones and Rossetti. Artists associated with the Aesthetic Movement ("Art for Art's Sake") is not really Pre-Raphaelite. The Pre-Raphaelite concept is closer to "Art for Truth's sake".
Edward Burne-Jones was Morris's best friend and his mentor-turned-business-partner Dante Gabriel Rossetti was emotionally involved with Morris's wife, Janey. Jane, as well as Morris's daughters, Jenny and May, modeled for his friends. Jenny Morris was the model for the Days of Creation, Rossetti was close to May and even considered trying to adopt her. George Howard also painted both girls.
We are only the trustees for those who come after us. ~William Morris