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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Willow, willow, on the wall...

 The Willow Bedroom, Standen

 Bedroom at Kelmscott Manor

 Stairwell, Victorian row house

Staircase, Wrightwick Manor

Morris's bed at Kelmscott Manor

 Willow Bough (1887)

Willow Bough is William Morris's most well-known and popular pattern.  These pictures are from two beautiful books:  William Morris Decor and Design (Elizabeth Wilhide) and Essential William Morris (Iain Zaczek).

Friday, January 29, 2010

Edward Burne-Jones' Magical World

The Beguiling of Merlin, 1874

Burne-Jones, on his art:  "I mean by a picture a beautiful, romantic dream of something that never was, never will be - in a light better than any light that ever shone - in a land no one can define or remember, only desire - and the forms divinely beautiful - and then I wake up"

Love among the ruins, 1894 

Phyllis and Demophoön, 1870

Head of Nimue, c. 1873

 Pan and Psyche, 1874

St. George and the Dragon, 1866-1893

 Sleeping Beauty, 1870-1890 

 Edward Burne-Jones (1833 - 1898) was the de facto equivalent of William Morris's freshman college roommate.  They met as teenagers at Oxford and remained close friends for their entire lives.  In 1998, on the 100th anniversary of Burne-Jones's death, a huge retrospective of his work was exhibited at the Musee d'Orsay, Paris.  I fell in love.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Fifties, V&A Pattern, part 2

Wright was obviously a fan.  I wonder if the others were?

Frank Lloyd Wright, "Design 706", 1956, wallpaper

Bent Karlby, "Haelderne", 1951, wallpaper

Pablo Picasso, cotton fabric, 1956

Joan Miro, cotton fabric, 1956

Joan Miro, "People and Birds", 1956, cotton fabric

Shinkichi Tajiri, "Louisiana", 1954, wallpaper

Gigi Tessari, "Spago", 1957, cotton fabric

Pictures from the book "V&A Pattern".

Related Post:  Part 1, Mughal Empire Florals at the V&A.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

To My Only Desire

 Last week, on my favorite blog BoingBoing, I came across a post about artist Joey Syta who has spent two years creating a one third size replica of the À Mon Seul Désir panel of The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, ALL IN Lite-Brites -- approximately 55,000 pegs.  This happens to be my very favorite tapestry in the world, one that I stop in and commune with whenever I'm in Paris.  It's in a fabulous round room at the Musée National du Moyen Âge (aka the Cluny Museum) in the Latin Quarter.

Here is the original:

À Mon Seul Désir (written on tent)

This panel is the sixth (or the first?) in series of tapestries made in the fifteenth century which were rediscovered in France in the early 18th century (purportedly by George Sand).   Much ink has been spilled in the years since trying to decipher the meaning of this tapestry.  The other five are now universally agreed to represent the five senses (see below).....but what of the last tapestry?  What is her desire?  The unicorn?  or a closer union with the heavenly father?  In that case is she renouncing earthly (sensual) pleasures, symbolically indicated by the placement of her necklace (worn in the previous five panels) into a box?  This seems to be the reigning interpretation at the moment, that freedom from the passions of the senses would ensure proper (aka moral) behavior.....Liberium arbitrium, so to speak.

However, I have my own interpretation.  I think the lady is telling her lover (symbolized by the unicorn of course) that she is ready to give herself completely to him, embracing all the senses.  The blue tent stands as a medieval "love shack" and the lady is actually beginning to disrobe (and as every woman knows, the first thing you do is take off your jewelry).

What do you think?  The thing I can't figure out is why William Morris never wrote about these tapestries (or did he? anyone?).  He had to have known about them --- not only did numerous writers write about them (Sand, Rilke, Cocteau...), Morris was clearly also an expert in the field of medieval tapestry.  I'm surprised he didn't write a book about them.

note added 1/29/10:  It was pointed out to me today that my hypothesis does not explain the presence of the lion in each tapestry and is therefore incomplete.  I agree.  I will continue to ponder the significance of the lion as I pursue my Grand Unified Theory (GUT) of the Unicorn Tapestries.

smell (making wreath of flowers/monkey smells flower)

hearing (lady playing organ)

sight (unicorn looks at his reflection in mirror)

 touch (lady gently touches unicorn's horn)

taste (lady eats sweets)

P.S. while we're on the subject of tapestries: here is a link to an article about contemporary artists working in the medium of tapestries that was in the NY Times yesterday.

"Vote Alan Measles for God" (2008), Grayson Perry

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Whose woods these are....

I'm back home!  Seoul was amazing---the city, the culture, the energy.  Sometimes I wonder what Morris's life would have been like if he lived in the era of plane travel.  He was such a sponge for knowledge of traditional arts and craft.  Would the sheer task of mastering the world's art history have overwhelmed him?  Probably not.

If you've been reading this blog regularly for the last few months, you are by now familiar with many of Morris's lesser-known-amazing-accomplishments---but wait!  there's more!  Did you know that Morris essentially invented the modern genre of fictional fantasy writing?  Yes, it's true, and that giant of twentieth century fiction, J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings) lay his inspiration directly on Morris's doorstep.

A few weeks ago I stumbled across Tyrion Frost's Fantasy Blog.  Tyrion (his nom de plume), 25 years old, reviews books in this genre and had just posted a review of William Morris's novel "The Wood Beyond the World".   It is an engaging testament to Morris's continuing influence in the 21st century and Tyrion agreed to let me post a few excerpts.  The red "editorial" comments are my own!   From Tyrion:

“The Wood Beyond the World” by William Morris begins with our hero, Golden Walter – a young man who happens to be in a very unhappy relationship. A man whom, upon coming to the conclusion that his new bride essentially hates him, decides to flee his home and set sail upon one of his father’s ships.  [hmmmm....sounds suspiciously auto-biographical]

 Kelmscott edition, 1894

"To begin, The Wood Beyond the world isn’t your typical sword and sorcery, slash em’ up type of fantasy — not at all. If anything, I’d say this novel is more of a medieval romance – one singed with fantasy elements..such as subtle magic, a queen of a strange world, an ugly dwarf, and of course..a lovely maiden slave whom’ longs to leave the Wood Beyond the World! A maiden whose fate soon intertwines with Walter – as they both fall deeply and madly in love.   [I (as Tolkien and Peter Jackson?) am picturing Walter as Viggo Mortensen aka Aragorn....]

"Written in a very archaic, Middle-English tone, I was a bit nervous when getting into “The Wood Beyond the World” – and a bit weary that I would spend more time deciphering the language than actually enjoying the story (lots of thees..and thous, and betwixt, etc). Luckily, I soon discovered that the language didn’t hinder my enjoyment at all, but actually enhanced it. After just a few chapters I was completely in love with the beautiful language, and felt as though I were reading something truly magical....

....."So, with that said, The World Beyond the World (sic) is an epic tale of romance, adventure, and love – all set in a very dream-like medieval world – a world that sucked me in and had me absolutely glued to each page. From the ethereal prose, to the beautifully crafted artwork, to the sympathetic and likeable characters, I can easily say that this is one novel that will truly stay with me."

You can read Tyrion's complete review here.  Thanks Tyrion!  You can read the novel on-line for free here (and you can also link to the original Kelmscott Edition, in Morris's original font, from that page as well).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Buncheong Stoneware at the National Museum of Korea




Buncheong was a style of pottery that was popular in Korea from the beginning of the fifteenth century to the middle of the sixteenth century.  Buncheong was a distinctive departure from the more aristocratic and refined celadon ceramics that preceded them and the elegant and minimalist white porcelain that followed.  It represented a return a more rustic and dynamic style, very similar to the establishment of the arts and craft movement of Morris's day that was eventually followed by 20th century minimalism.  In fact, this pottery reminds me of the work of William de Morgan (prior post here and here).  The pottery is made using a white slip technique.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The afters in the rafters...

before restoration

 and the to enlarge/dazzle

where can I buy one of these gutterspouts for my house?