The Influential Designs of William Morris

Decorative Arts Leonard Joel Auctions
Decorative Arts Leonard Joel Auctions
Attributed to George Jack, designer, born New York 1855
died London 1932
MORRIS & COMPANY, London, manufacturer, established 1861
completed 1940
Bric-a-brac cabinet 1885, London
walnut, glass 110.0 x 420.0 x 44.0 cm
Gift of Anthony Hurl through the
Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation 2008
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Decorative Arts Leonard Joel Auctions
A Morris & Co. Walnut Framed Embroidery Inset Fire Screen. $1,200 – 2,000

The enormous increase in wealth enjoyed by South Australia in the second half of the 19th Century, concentrated across a small number of significant families, created a need for interiors and furnishings on a lavish scale. Unlike their established Anglo-Scottish antecedents with fully furnished ancestral homes, these newly prosperous individuals were building large mansions which needed complete interiors to be developed from scratch.

William Morris and Morris & Co., as a result of strategic collaborations, were able to supply not only papers and textiles, but soft furnishings, furniture, lighting, glassware,
and ceramics. This resulted in these few Australian families being amongst Morris’ largest clients. Consequently, South Australia is fortunate to have internationally significant collections of decorative arts either by, or relating to,
William Morris.

Most readers would be familiar with Morris’ wallpapers, produced under licence today by Sanderson, and perhaps the curtain fabrics. The less secular amongst us may be familiar with the superb stained glass installed in various churches around Adelaide. Arguably the best windows, ironically given Morris’ socialist leanings, are in the Adelaide Stock Exchange building, where many of his Adelaide clients made or at least augmented their fortunes.

William Morris stained glass. Leonard Joel Auctions
William Morris stained glass of the Three Wise Men, All Saints Church, Sheepy Magna, Leicestershire, England, UK / Alamy

Morris collaborated with many important figures in the design and supply of furniture. One such collaboration is the illustrated bookcase designed by George Jack in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia. In some instances, the client was able to participate in the collaboration, being provided with the piece of furniture and an accompanying kit of silks, to be embroidered to a design supplied by Morris & Co.

Leonard Joel is delighted to offer a walnut fire screen, stamped ‘Morris & Co 49 Oxford St W’ and numbered ‘1311’ embroidered in coloured silks, sold in kit form by the Oxford Street shop. For a related screen, please see Exhibit M.28, Victoria and Albert Museum, Centenary Exhibition ‘William Morris 1834-1896’ illustrated on page 247 in Linda Parry’s, ‘William Morris’, 1996, Philip Wilson Publishers in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum.

ANTHONY HURL / South Australia Representative Specialist

Banner Image: A Morris & Co. Walnut Framed Embroidery Inset Fire Screen. $1,200 – 2,000

February 2022