One of the most important figures of the Arts and Crafts movement, May Morris has long been overshadowed by her more famous father, William Morris.
Now, London’s William Morris Gallery are setting out to change that. The most comprehensive survey of May's work to date, May Morris: Art & Life – staged with your support through our crowdfunding platform, Art Happens – brings together more than 80 works from collections around the UK, many of which are on public display for the first time.
While the exhibition demonstrates the breadth of May’s interests and skills, there is a special focus on her development of embroidery as an art form rather than a domestic pastime, and an emphasis on her radical influence. Founding the Women’s Guild of Arts in 1907 in response to the men-only Art Workers Guild, May fought to promote the work of women artists at a time when they were overlooked. (In fact, the Art Workers Guild did not accept women as full members until as late as 1964.)
As well as embroidery, the exhibition features wallpaper, jewellery, dresses, book designs, sketches and watercolours – plus journal entries and letters offering insight into May's personal life, such as her connection to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, for whom she modelled as a child, and her relationship with the playwright George Bernard Shaw.
In addition to staging this display, the funds raised through the Art Happens campaign have allowed the gallery to embark on vital conservation work, meaning many of the items included will have a life beyond the exhibition.