Rose Trail

By William Morris Gallery

From
tapestries to wallpapers, embroideries to carpets, William Morris’s designs are
dominated by roses and other flowers. This trail thorough the William Morris Gallery collections traces the roses that occur again and again in patterns by Morris and his contemporaries.

Design for 'Trellis' wallpaper (November, 1862) by William MorrisWilliam Morris Gallery

Roses can be found in the earliest of William Morris's designs. This design is for 'Trellis' the first wallpaper that Morris created.

The design was based on rose trellises in Morris’s garden at Red House, the home designed for Morris and his wife Jane by Philip Webb

The garden at Red House was set out in a medieval style. It featured a large square subdivided into four by woven wattle fences. 'Trellis' mirrors the grid structure of the garden at Red House.

As well as designing Red House, Webb worked in collaboration with Morris on this design. It was Webb who drew the birds which add movement and interest to the composition.

'Trellis' wallpaper (designed 1862, printed before 1940) by William MorrisWilliam Morris Gallery

Although it was the first to be designed, 'Trellis' was the third wallpaper to be printed by Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. It was available in a variety of different colorways.

In this colorway the red roses stand out against the cream background. The contrasting greens and red of the stems, flowers, thorns and insects highlight the different elements of an English garden.

Point-paper design for 'Dove and Rose' silk and wool double cloth (1879) by William MorrisWilliam Morris Gallery

Roses also feature in William Morris's designs for textiles, such as this design for 'Dove and Rose'. The pattern was to be woven by hand-operated jacquard looms so is drawn on a point-paper grid.

The roses in this design are more stylized but their distinctive thorned stems and red flower heads make them easy to recognise.

'Dove and Rose' woven double cloth (designed in 1879) by William MorrisWilliam Morris Gallery

The roses can be seen here in the completed textile. Although they are not coloured red in this example, they are still easily identified by their shape.

Morris returned to roses again and again in his patterns and often includes them from different angles and in different stages of growth. Some of the roses here are shown as buds rather than flowers.

'Rose' printed cotton (designed 1883, printed before 1940) by William MorrisWilliam Morris Gallery

This printed cotton features William Morris's 'Rose' pattern, designed in 1883.

The roses in this pattern can be seen from all angles including from the back, the side and straight on. The tendrils, leaves and thorns of the rose plant can also be seen in this textile.

'Rose and Thistle' printed cotton (1881) by William MorrisWilliam Morris Gallery

Roses also feature in this printed cotton, 'Rose and Thistle' designed by William Morris around 1881. It is a more energetic design and references the wildness of the English countryside.

Morris depicted roses and other flowers as flat, sinuous shapes rather than realistic bouquets. He wanted to evoke the variety of nature rather than the tidy displays of an urban flower market.

'The Pilgrim and the Heart of the Rose' embroidery (1874-1876) by William MorrisWilliam Morris Gallery

Roses were also included in Morris & Co. embroideries, such as this one designed by Edward Burne-Jones. The embroidered panel depicts a scene from the medieval legend of The Romaunt of the Rose.

The story describes a pilgrim’s quest for a rose, which symbolises the love of his lady. This is the final scene in which he is reunited with his love, a beautiful maiden enveloped by a rose bush.

Interior of Morris & Co. George Street showroom (1919) by Dulce WornumWilliam Morris Gallery

Burne-Jones's embroidery design was also made into a tapestry, a version of which can be seen in this watercolor painting of the Morris & Co. showroom in London.

In this tapestry, the pilgrim is depicted very similarly to how he was shown in the embroidery. However, the lady has merged with the rose and only her face can be seen emerging from its petals.

'Rose Wreath' embroidery (c.1890) by William MorrisWilliam Morris Gallery

William Morris's younger daughter May Morris also admired roses. This 'Rose Wreath' embroidery was embroidered by May based on a design created by her father.

Embroidered evening bag (c.1870-1880) by May MorrisWilliam Morris Gallery

May Morris also used roses in her own designs, such as this embroidered bag that she designed and embroidered herself.

In her design the red rose flower is surrounded by tulips and other smaller plants.

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