"William Morris Carpets: Action in Design"


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  • Speaker: Caroline Arscott
  • Host Department: History of Art
  • Date: 10/02/2012
  • Time: 5:00PM

  • Location: U-M Museum of Art Multipurpose Room, 525 S. State

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  • Description:

    Morris’s carpet designs have been discussed in terms of naturalism and abstraction but rather than focusing on this polarity Arscott will consider Morris’s intimations of action. Morris associated action with the pictorial and considered it to be one of the great resources of oriental carpet design. This talk will consider the knot in terms of the substance of the pile and the interlace of the design. The significance of the knot for Victorian mathematics will also be touched upon. Arscott will discuss ways in which action may be indicated even where figures are absent, and will make reference to Riegl's discussion of cloud band motifs in carpets. This paper seeks to establish the ways in which ornament can function as a mode of the pictorial in an Arts and Crafts context.

    Caroline Arscott has lectured at the Courtauld Institute of Art since 1988, extending her study of the Victorian art world from an initial focus on modern life painting in the 1840s and 1850s into work on pre-Victorian urban topography, the Aesthetic Movement, and Arts and Crafts. She is currently head of research at the Courtauld, where she is responsible for the Research Forum programme of activities and for the Courtauld’s research strategy. Her publications include articles on a wide range of Victorian artists including William Holman Hunt, Millais, Leighton, Poynter, Whistler, Sickert, Tissot, Fildes, Scharf and Frith. In 2008 she published William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones: Interlacings (Yale University Press). Work she has undertaken on Morris’s tapestry emerged from a Courtauld Research Forum project on “The Clever Object” and will appear in a special issue of the journal Art History edited by Matthew Hunter and Francesco Lucchini.

    Sponsored by the Department of the History of Art with additional support from the Nineteenth-Century Forum, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Institute for the Humanities, International Institute, and Rackham Graduate School.