On William Morris and Mariano Fortuny

192pp ILLUS 2016 LIST PRICE: £14.99 AA69



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The Arts and Crafts Movement promoted a philosophy that challenged the distinctions between fine art and craft, family life and work. Byatt has applied this unifying principle to a study of two endlessly inventive artists: the English designer and socialist William Morris (1834–96) and the Spanish creator of exotic pattern and dress, Mariano Fortuny (1871–1949). Fabric designs of both men were lavish celebrations of overblown flora and fauna, though Morris’s tended to be of a garden variety while Fortuny’s designs in glowing silks and velvets inclined to the fantastical. Domestically, however, they were at opposite poles. Fortuny, the aristocrat, lived and worked in a Venetian palazzo, and his marriage and working partnership with a French model survived. It was a ‘sweet, simple old place’ called Kelmscott Manor that Morris loved best -- even when it became the setting for his lowly-born wife’s love affair with Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
A beautifully produced little book . . . heavy with sensory perceptions. THE TIMES