The legacy of Wil­liam Morris car­ries on

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for a dis­ap­pear­ing nat­u­ral world is noth­ing new, it has re­cently gained huge mo­men­tum. Standen House, de­signed for the wealthy ealthy Beale fam­ily by ar­chi­tect Phillip Webb, was filled from top to bot­tom with ith mo­tifs of birds and hares, sea­weeds s and sun­flow­ers by Webb’s close friend, end, the tex­tile de­signer and so­cial al ac­tivist Wil­liam Morris.

Standen epit­o­mises it­o­mises the Eng­lish coun­try y house look. “Morris’s love of f na­ture was a well­spring for his is work,” says Alice Strick­land, Standen’s cu­ra­tor. “He pos­sessed essed an un­der­stand­ing and deep love of flow­ers, trees, birds, irds, an­i­mals and in­sects. In his is de­signs he of­ten chose to use field and hedgerow plants such as dog rose and honey­suckle ysuckle and the curv­ing branches an­ches of oak and wil­low.”

But be­neath these hese de­signs, for Morris at least, there here was a deeper mean­ing. He hated ted the chok­ing smogs, pol­luted rivers and ur­ban sprawl that the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion had un­leashed on the en­vi­ron­ment. His de­signs cap­tured a van­ish­ing ecology: “Apart from the de­sire to pro­duce beau­ti­ful things, the lead­ing pas­sion of my life has been and is ha­tred of mod­ern civil­i­sa­tion,” he wrote. Form was beau­ti­ful only if it was in ac­cord with na­ture. “I must have un­mis­tak­able sug­ges­tions of gar­dens and fields, and strange trees, boughs and ten­drils, or I can’t do with your pat­tern,” he ad­vised one de­signer. “Con­ser­va­tion of the coun­try­side went with the idea that art be­longed to every­one,” says Fiona MacCarthy, one of Morris’s bi­og­ra­phers. “Morris saw how hu­man be­ings de­pended on na­ture, not­ing the ef­fect of the… land­scape in lift­ing the spir­its and con­tribut­ing to psy­cho­log­i­cal equi­lib­rium. “He viewed with des­per­a­tion the speed with which Bri­tain was be­com­ing vul­garised and ugli­fied,” she adds. Many Morris schol­ars, among them John Ble­witt, have be­gun to reap­praise his legacy in terms of the en­vi­ron­ment, and Morris is hailed to­day as an eco-so­cial­ist whose vi­sion of a fu­ture utopia – ex­pressed in his novel – was linked to eco­log­i­cal

Palm chair, £299 by Cult Fur­ni­ture, below

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