Morris, William

Morris, William

biographical name


William Morris, drawing by C.M. Watts—The Mansell Collection

(born March 24, 1834, Walthamstow, near London, Eng.—died Oct. 3, 1896, Hammersmith) British painter, designer, craftsman, poet, and social reformer, founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Born into a wealthy family, he studied medieval architecture at Oxford. He was apprenticed to an architect, but visits to Europe turned him toward painting. In 1861, with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown, and others, he founded Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., an association of “fine art workmen” based on the medieval guild. They produced furniture, tapestry, stained glass, fabrics, carpets, and most notably wallpaper designs. In 1891 Morris founded the Kelmscott Press, and over the next seven years it produced 53 titles in 66 volumes; its Works of Geoffrey Chaucer is one of the greatest examples of the art of the printed book. Though he sought to produce fine art objects for the masses, only the rich could afford his expensive handmade products. A utopian socialist, he did much to develop British socialism; in 1884 he formed the Socialist League. In 1877 he founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, one of the world's first preservationist groups. He wrote several volumes of poetry and many prose romances, as well as the four-volume epic Sigurd the Volsung (1876). His works and writings revolutionized Victorian taste, and he ranks as one of the largest cultural figures of 19th-century Britain.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on Morris, William, visit

Seen & Heard

What made you look up Morris, William? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.