23 August 2009

Morris in The Time Traveller's Wife

I didn't see the film, The Time Traveller's Wife, nor did I particularly want to. Audrey Niffenegger's 2003 novel is he kind of book which would only be ruined in by cinematic treatment. Leave it in my memory as a wonderful read, unsullied by a director's interpretation, actors' voices, and the simplification and manipulation which must come in an adaptation. Sorry . . . this is a William Morris blog, not an outlet for film critics. What's worth mentioning here is the Morris connection. It's small, but noteworthy. It consists of one bit of dialogue. Clare, the wife of the title, becomes reacquainted with Henry, the time traveller (they had met and fallen in love before) when she comes to the Newberry Librarary on a research trip. Claire, asks Henry, who is a rare book librarian, "Hi, I'm looking for a book on papermaking at the Kelmscott Press. . . ?" This line is not in the novel—in which Claire simply states:
I'm writing a paper for an art history class. My research topic is the Kelmscott Press Chaucer. I look up the book itself and fill in a call slip for it. But I also want to read about papermaking at Kelmscott. The catalogue is confusing. I go back to the desk to ask for help.
after stating that she's filled in a request slip for the Kelmscott Chaucer. The scene was filmed in Toronto’s Osgoode Hall Law Library, which stood in for Chicago’s Newberry.

Audrey Niffenegger is not only a bestelling novelist but also a noted book artist and designer who has an admittted to a love of Aubrey Beardsley (and, presumably, William Morris). So we assume the passage is autobiographical.

04 August 2009

The Pre-Raphaelite Online Resource

It is almost inconceivable that one institution could have as many as 2,300 works by the Pre-Raphaelites and their associates, and perhaps even more unbelievable that all of them could be digitized and made available online. Yet it's true. All of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery's massive collection—paintings and drawings major, minor, iconic, and forgotten—is now on the Pre-Raphaelite Online Resource. I can't say too many good things about this remarkable "resource." The images are superb (produced with Microsoft's Silverlight technology which captures minute detail, even when zoomed in at almost microscopic levels). Access is by a first-rate search mechanism simultaneously providing ease-of-use and an elaborate filtering mechanism, enabling both casual viewing and research by specialists. A search for Rossetti returns 385 items, for Morris over 600, and for Burne-Jones an astonishing 1,035. There are detailed notes and thematic introductions which use selected works to focus on gender and sexuality, history, particular figures, wood engraving, illustration, and other subjects. (You can also set up and publish your own personal collection of images and their is a built-in discussion area.) Rebecca West once wrote that Max Beerbohm's broadcasts alone justified the invention of radio; Birmingham's site perhaps does not by itself justify the existence of the internet but it does show what can be accomplished when talent, scholarship, good design—and money—are applied to art and culture. Visit and you may be stuck there for hours.

Save the Date! Useful and Beautiful Conference in Delaware, October 2010

Save the Date!
Useful and Beautiful:
The Transatlantic Arts of William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites
7–9 October 2010
Newark and Wilmington, DE

A conference and related exhibitions, 7-9 October 2010, at the University of Delaware (Newark, DE) and at the Delaware Art Museum and the Winterthur Museum and Country Estate (Wilmington, DE). Organized with the assistance of the William Morris Society, Useful and Beautiful will highlight the strengths of the University of Delaware’s rare books, manuscripts, and art collections; Winterthur’s important holdings in American decorative arts; and the Delaware Art Museum’s superlative Pre-Raphaelite collection (the largest outside Britain). This conference will focus on the multitude of transatlantic exchanges that involved Morris, the Pre-Raphaelites, and the arts and crafts and aesthetic movements of the late nineteenh century. We will invite papers that explore relationships and influences—whether personal, intellectual, political, or aesthetic—that connect William Morris, his friends, associates, and followers in Britain and Europe with their contemporaries and successors in the Americas. The “arts” will include not merely those at which Morris himself excelled—i.e., literature, design, and printing—but also painting, illustration, architecture, performance, and anything related to print culture in general. A formal call for papers and other details will follow in Fall 2009.

For more information, please contact Mark Samuels Lasner, marksl@udel.edu, (302) 831-3250.

William Morris 175 Anniversary Celebrations

To mark the 175th anniversary of William Morris, the William Morris Society is holding William Morris 175 Anniversary Celebrations on the weekend of 4–6 September at Kelmscott House in London. Combining elements of a scholarly conference, a museum visit, a music and drama festival, an arts workshop, and a social gathering, this one-of-a-kind event is open to members of the William Morris Society and the general public.

British Labour politician Tony Benn (better known as Anthony Wedgwood Benn), the guest of honour, will speak on "The Legacy of William Morris."

The opening night features a very exciting theatrical event, a special performance of the new play Alexandra Kollontai in London by Penelope Dimond. First performed on 8 March at the Torriano Meeting House to celebrate International Women’s Day, the play concerns Alexandra Kollontai, was a leading figure in revolutionary Russia and the only woman in Lenin’s government. Dimond’s was inspired by Kollontai’s visits to London between 1899 and 1913— she encounters a number of leading English Socialists, learns of William Morris, visits Upper Mall, Hammersmith, and sees the meeting place of the Hammersmith Socialists.

The playwright, Penelope Dimond, said: "I am thrilled that my play is to be performed in the historic Lecture Room that was the meeting place of the Hammersmith Socialists, and which the characters in my play knew and spoke about. When I wrote the scene in my play where a character pays homage to the memory of William Morris I had no idea that it would one day be performed for the William Morris Society. I am delighted by this highly appropriate and fortunate opportunity for my play to be performed during the Morris 175 celebration."
4–6 Septmeber 2009
Kelmscott House
26 Upper Mall
London W6 9TA UK
Weekend tickets (Friday evening, all day Saturday & Sunday): £50 members & concessions; £63 non-members. Friday evening only: £10 members & concessions; £13 non-members. Saturday only: £36 members & concessions; £45 non-members. Sunday only: £24 members & concessions; £30 non-members. Priority will be given to those booking weekend tickets. When booking, please state whether you have any special dietary requirements.

The full pogram may be downloaded here (PDF format). For further information please e-mail william.morris@care4free.net, or telephone 020 87413735 on
Tuesday, Thursday, or a Saturday afternoon.