Two pages, folded 8vo sheet, on Morris’s printed Kelmscott House letterhead. Item #404812
Morris writes to Holman Hunt (1827-1910), English painter and one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, about the exhibition in Brussels being organized by Octave Maus “to which I am contributing somewhat: he has asked me to mention him to you and I do so knowing that this is a growing interest and quite an intelligent one being taken in France and Belgium in the English schools of art, both decorative and more strictly pictorial. Yours very truly, William Morris.”
Maus organized two exhibitions entitled La Libre Esthétique in 1894 and 1895. These followed Morris’s own model – but to even greater breadth – that exhibitions include all of the arts, including the decorative ones. These salons attracted the attention of many important early moderns. Morris’s typography, wallpapers, fabrics, and designs were exhibited alongside works by Paul Gauguin, Lucien and Camille Pissaro, Paul Signac, Alfred Sisley, Odilon Redon, and Pierre Auguste Renoir. Also exhibited was Aubrey Beardsley, an artist Morris disliked intensely. Kelvin points to these exhibitions as evidence of the complicated relationship Morris had to early modernism, and writes of this letter: “And certainly of significance, Morris was quite ready in 1895 to write to Holman Hunt and speak approvingly of La Libre Esthétique and urge him to participate (he did). The strong impression made on him by this fact is that when Morris was properly approached, or perhaps approached by the Continent, an ambitious dream of the next generation could appeal to him” (Letters, IV, p. xxxiii, introduction).
This letter thus sheds important light on Morris’s relationship between his own art and the rise of modernism, and between the English schools represented by Hunt and Morris and their peers in Europe.
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