This study examines William Morris's influence on design in the 1880s, a decade that witnessed the start of a design renaissance, reshaping the way the world was seen as well as the way many thought it should look. Morris was at the center of this change, not only because of his celebrated hostility to aspects of machine culture—expressed as a socialist, politician, and poet—but because of his considerable practical success as a designer and businessman whose work had enormous influence on the next generation of artists, craftsmen, and designers. This book emphasizes the latter achievement. By examining Morris's relationship to the Arts and Crafts movement in general, as well as to such organizations as the Century Guild, the Art Workers' Guild, and the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, the author sheds new light not only on fin-de siecle English culture, but also on Morris's complicated and often paradoxical role as a presursor of modern conceptions of both art and poloitics.
"This is a demanding but at the same time a very readable and enjoyable book. It is not so much a biography of William Morris as a consideration of him as a political and esthetic phenomenon and as the founder of a number of organizations—the Century Guild, the Art Workers Guild, and the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. Mr. Stansky examines them with a learning that is never pedantic, frequently humorous, and always intelligtent."
—Quentin Bell, The New York Review of Books
"Stansky's book is at its most original and compelling in analyzing the conflicts of the conservative and progressive art worlds of the 1880s and the internal bureaucratic and ideological tensions within the more progressive organizations themselves . . . a pioneering example of how seemingly 'old-fashioned' concerns and procedures in political history or the history of art can take on a renewed vitality when combined."
—Ian Britain, Journal of Modern History
Peter Stansky is the Frances and Charles Field Professor of Modern British History at Stanford University and the author of numerous works in this field.
309 pages, illus. 1985, 1996. Paperback only: $25.00.
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