William Morris – 1834 – 1896
Political Activist, designer, furniture maker and poet.
This man of many talents is still recognised today as a key figure of the Arts & Crafts movement. His decorative botanical prints borrow an aesthetic from the 18th century Chinese motifs and techniques of chinoiserie. I also when looking at his work see an early expression of Art Nouveau fuelled with energy, his utopian flower wallpapers depict a language of fertility, with nature always in full bloom. A romantic, influenced by the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites Morris’s work was a rejection to mainstream artistic tastes. He founded the Socialist League in 1884. I find Morris interesting as a thinker and his application of an emotional political utopia to his work.
Emile Galle – 1846 – 1904
French, of course. Another man of considerable talent. His work came to give him fame as a result of the Paris Exhibition of 1878. Galle for me was one of the most important figures of the art Nouveau movement in France during the mid 19th century. A furniture manufacturer, ceramists and glass maker. Like Morris he too followed a political philosophy which translated into his work, founding the League for the Defense of the Rights of Man and Citizens. His involvement with Human rights as social engagement defending the Romanian Jews and Irish Catholics eventually had been said to have hindered his business. Galle literally inscribed quotations from poet Victor Hugo on his chalice Le Figuier (The Fig Tree) which said “Because all men are the son of the same father, they are the same tear which runs from the same eye”… this utilitarian, freudian like biblical message clearly emphasises the depth of being and existence…Brilliant.
It is apparent that both men have incorporated experimental techniques into their work, from metallic foils and air bubbles, stained glass to wall-paper, textiles to furniture. Dyeing, silk weaving, embroidery. Such a critical movement of exploration through materials to conceive objects of their artistic expression.
However, I argue that process comes after philosophy. I see both artists work upholding a message not a legacy. True to nature and civilisation. They value a responsibility of social engagement as their flux, with their craft as a promotional tool to convey their pertinent message.