The Arts Society Lectures

Lectures about the Arts & Crafts Movement with a special interest in William Morris and his circle.

Lectures are given by Fiona Rose our accredited lecturer with The Arts Society (formerly known as NADFAS). For more information about Fiona please click this link.

If you are interesting in booking a lecture with Fiona, or finding out more information about the lecture topics listed below, please contact us via the Contact page or by phoning (01799) 531233. Fiona also gives a special interest day about William Morris: The Man Behind the Famous Floral Designs.

1 Hour Lectures:

The Pursuit of Beauty: An Overview of the Life & Works of William Morris

William Morris (1834-1896) was the single most influential designer of the nineteenth century. He was also a political theorist, poet, writer, publisher, and environmental campaigner. Morris’s aim in life was “to transform the world with beauty” not just by creating beautiful objects but in the detail of everyday life and the belief in art for all. He believed in the value of good design for the maker and consumer and that the learning of manual skills made for a well-rounded life. This talk provides an overview of his visionary thinking, his early life and influences, his marriage, family and homes and the work of Morris & Co.

In the Garden with William Morris: Flora as Art

More famous for his work inside the home, William Morris (1834-1896) made a significant impact on the evolution of the English garden. He considered the garden inseparable from the house, rejecting Victorian formality and instead drawing inspiration from medieval gardens. This lecture examines his gardening principles drawing from Morris’s lectures, letters, poetry, and prose. It also explores his own gardens that served as an inspiration behind his flower-based designs: Red House, Kelmscott Manor, Kelmscott House and the garden at his factory Merton Abbey Works.

Through the Keyhole: The Homes of William Morris

Morris famously said, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” This lecture examines how his design philosophy influenced, and was influenced by, his homes including Woodford Hall, Red House, Kelmscott Manor and Kelmscott House. This talk is copiously illustrated by beautiful photographs, both internal and external, of the Morris homes mentioned, many of which were taken by the lecturer during private tours of Morris's abodes.

The Life & Work of May Morris: A Remarkable Woman

Towards the end of her life May Morris (1862-1938) - designer, craftsperson, and younger daughter of William Morris – wrote, ‘I’m a remarkable woman, always was, though none of you seem to think so’. Overshadowed in her lifetime by the achievements of her illustrious father, thankfully today May Morris is recognised as a leading figure in the Arts & Crafts Movement. Excelling in the field of embroidery, she was Head of Embroidery at Morris & Co. by the time she was twenty-three. May also designed wallpapers, made jewellery and was a talented amateur watercolour artist. She was instrumental in founding the Women’s Guild of Arts formed to support women working in the arts and crafts field at a time when they were excluded from similar organisations. A skilled editor, May spent her later years editing the 24 volumes of her father's collected works.

William Morris's Red House: The Beautifullest Place on Earth

Red House was the only home William Morris ever owned and helped design. When the house was completed in 1860, Morris’s friend Edward Burne-Jones described it as, “the beautifullest place on earth.” The challenge of furnishing his new home inspired Morris to found the decorating company Morris & Co. Often described as, ‘the cradle of the Arts & Crafts Movement’, Red House is one of the most important and influential buildings in the history of domestic architecture. This talk is copiously illustrated by beautiful photographs, internal and external, of Red House and Morris furnishings.

William Before Morris & Co: The Early Life & Influences of William Morris

William Morris (1834–1896) was a designer, political theorist, translator, publisher, environmental campaigner, writer, and poet. This lecture explores Morris’s early life before he founded his famous decorating firm Morris & Co. in 1861. Looking at his family background, early schooling, time at Oxford University, marriage and the three great loves of his life, we examine the influences and experiences that helped form the single most influential designer of the nineteenth century.

Warington Taylor: The Man Who Served William Morris

Warington Taylor was the Business Manager of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co from 1865 until his early death in 1870. In publications about William Morris, Taylor has invariably been portrayed as a shadowy figure. Depicted as a penniless theatre usher mysteriously coming into the orbit of William Morris before fleeing to Hastings with consumption in 1866 never to grace Morris & Co. again. He has been habitually described as managing The Firm from the south coast whilst tormenting Morris via the arsenal of his pen. Based on the speaker’s original research, this lecture shows the life of Warington Taylor was much more interesting and complex than hitherto presented.

Uncompromising Genius: The Life & Work of Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright is recognized as one of the most important architects of all time. He was a genius who believed he was destined to redesign the world. Over the course of his long career he designed over 800 buildings, including revolutionary structures such as The Guggenheim Museum, Fallingwater, the Johnson Wax Building and Taliesin. However, Wright’s architectural achievements were often over shadowed by his turbulent private life. In his 92 years, he fathered 7 children, married three times, and suffered great personal tragedy. This illustrated lecture provides an overview of his work, colourful personal life and most iconic buildings.

Frida Kahlo: A Life in Art

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-54) was queen of the selfies long before Kim Kardashian but instead of using Instagram Frida used a brush and oils to paint her own reality. Often associated with the Surrealist movement, Frida denied this insisting she painted life exactly as she had experienced it. Frida’s personal life was tumultuous. Horrifically injured in an accident as a teenager she was dogged by physical pain and suffering for the rest of her life. She married, divorced, and remarried the painter Diego Rivera her artistic and political soulmate though an unfaithful husband.

This illustrated lecture explores Frida’s life through her most iconic paintings. Some of her paintings examined in this lecture are graphic and unflinching with subjects including murder, suicide, marital infidelity, miscarriage, revolution, living with a disability and death. Diego Rivera acknowledged Frida as, “the first woman in the history of art to treat, with absolute and uncompromising honesty… those general and specific themes which exclusively affect women”. Recognised as one of the greatest female artists of the 20th century she is known for her originality, bold use of colour, passion, courage and as someone who created life and beauty in the face of great personal suffering and adversity.