The Story of Art Nouveau
William Morris’s designs for fabrics, wallpaper, and other decorative arts revolutionized Victorian taste and contributed to the revival of traditional textile arts, generating the Arts and Crafts Movement in England. As a student at Oxford, Morris was deeply influenced by John Ruskin’s writings on architecture, and trips to Northern France and Belgium cemented his fascination with medieval art. After Morris was commissioned to design a house and became absorbed in the process of decorating and furnishing it, he created an association of “fine art workmen,” which included the Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The group received commissions to decorate new churches, including stained-glass windows and ceiling paintings. During his lifetime Morris designed over 50 wallpapers, engaging in revolutionary experiments with vegetable dye for color. Handprinted with woodblocks, Morris’s wallpaper designs of trellises, fruits, and wreathes demonstrated the artist’s interest in naturalism. Though expensive, by the 1890s his wallpapers could be found in many middle class homes.