Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris and his Legacy, 1860-1960

National Portrait Gallery

16 October 2014 – 11 January 2015

£6.35 with National Art Pass (standard entry £12.70)

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From the Pre-Raphaelites to Terence Conran, the exhibition explores William Morris and his influence on 20th-century life.

'Art for the people' – William Morris's revolutionary call to action that redefined creativity in the Victorian era, and which helped to forge new paths for subsequent generations artists, designers, academics and philosophers. Spanning from the early origins of the art-inclusive movement to its manifestation in the 1960s, this show explores Morris and his extraordinary legacy. Explore the surprising and well-known relationships between William Morris' illustrious circle of friends with our connections map.

Morris was closely associated with the convention-defying Pre-Raphaelite artists and other radical thinkers such as the critic John Ruskin, who believed that all human beings have artistic potential. The exhibition includes items produced by key members Morris's inner circle, including lifelong collaborator Edward Burne-Jones, the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the female artists and designers he accepted as co-practitioners at a time where women had few rights.

Extending beyond his lifetime, the show charts the continuation of Morris's idealism over the next 200 years. It explores the Garden City movement which pushed for ‘good design’ to be made available to a wider market in the Edwardian era, the ethical crafts produced by anti-materialist Bernard Leach and his contemporaries in the 1920s and 30s, and the establishment of the government supported Council of Industrial Design in the post-war years.

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Morris was the most prominent Victorian artist to embrace socialism when it emerged in the 1880s, and he devoted most of this decade to the movement – even though this alienated him from several friends and family members. He wrote socialist songs, poems and plays, as well as columns for newspapers, and he spoke at rallies and meetings in support of the cause. In 1884 he co-founded the Socialist League and helped compose the inaugral manifesto. Key exhibits on display here include William Morris’s handwritten Socialist Diary and his gold-tooled handbound copy of Karl Marx’s Le Capital.

Venue information

Opening times

Saturday to Thursday: 10am – 6pm

Friday Lates: 10am – 9pm

Closed 24 – 26 Dec

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