Ninety-one

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Rose

1883 by William Morris
The William Morris Gallery, London

Looking at two pieces of art from such close proximity in time is intriguing; no matter how much we try and place the wealth of art in order within our minds, artists contemporary to one another never cease to escape me. For instance, here we have the flowering design of William Morris next to van Gogh’s drawing (postcard ninety), only a year before. Where van Gogh takes something old, the picturesque scene of the vicarage, and makes us see it through his eyes, Morris does the same with the pattern of a rose, a flower that has inspired for centuries. The almost clumsy way the design is articulated, through swollen leaved vines and heavy-headed roses, varies from the delicacy and intricacy that usually pervades Morris’s designs (postcard forty-seven). The style literally holds on to its medieval roots, encouraged with bright flat colour, the whole design is clouded in an antique-like warmth. Each flower takes a deeply traditional form – the Yorkshire rose, the lotus and the central four leaf clover. Yet, for all this, the design is not old; modern in its method, it is distinctly pattern not decoration. The ‘arts and crafts’ are clear; it is not the background for a wooded scene but the fabric of luxurious chintz. A more distinguished ‘Cath Kidston’ of his day, Morris brought inspiration into the ‘modern’ Victorian home.

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