A couple of Sundays ago we visited The Red House, William and Jane Morris' home of only five years. It was designed by Morris with architect Philip Webb in 1859. Recently acquired by the National Trust, having been somewhat restored by Ted and Doris Hollamby from the 1950s onwards.
Never visited Kelmscott Manor, which would appear to be more as-was and more representative of his textiles. But the Red House had a lack of assumption that we appreciated. It felt a home. But also something askew in its atmosphere, perhaps because they had to leave for financial reasons; perhaps because of its contemporaneity with Jane's ongoing affair with Rossetti. Or that's whimsy. And I really don't want to be whimsical about Morris. Too much of that already, in the laminated tablecloths and Laura Ashleyisms to take away as souvenir from anywhere with anything to do with WM.
Been discussing him with Adrian Holme (Adrian is a constant source of inspiration; read his blog here). WM is viewed sentimentally and also is seen to have romanticised the working class and the nature of craft. But in a context now where he is cited by, for example,Rollo Press, there is something to be understood about the way the technological cycle has returned to and now facilitating small volume, close-to-hand work. A foresight.
"To own the means of production is the only way to gain back pleasure in work, and this, in return, is considered as a prerequisite for the production of (applied) art and beauty."
Art and its Producers (1888).
Certainly there is rigour in the junction points between holistically designed components of the House. An intensity that belies any mediated idea of Morris-lite. The weight of the hand. First hand. The objects, the conjunctions, the decisions are too vital.