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The Forest

  • Object:

    Tapestry

  • Place of origin:

    England, Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1887 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    William Morris, born 1834 - died 1896 (designer)
    Webb, Philip Speakman, born 1831 - died 1915 (designer)
    John Henry Dearle, born 1860 - died 1932 (designer)
    Merton Abbey Workshop (maker)
    Knight, William (maker)
    Martin, John (maker)
    Sleath, William (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tapestry woven wool and silk on a cotton warp

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with the assistance of The Art Fund

  • Museum number:

    T.111-1926

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

  • Download image

William Morris' use of birds and animals in his early tapestries is a forebear to his later carpet patterns. This design, one of his most successful compositions, uses a dense cover of trailing acanthus leaves, as seen in his first tapestry 'Acanthus and Vine', into which have been placed Philip Webb's five studies of animals and birds. It is possible that Henry Dearle supplied foreground floral details, although these are similar to Webb's preparatory drawings. The verse was later published under the title 'The Lion' in Morris's Poems By the Way.

The tapestry was woven by Morris & Co.'s three most senior weavers 'under the superintendence of William Morris' according to the 1890 Arts and Crafts Exhibition catalogue. Bought by Aleco Ionides for 1 Holland Park, in London, it hung in the study together with an acanthus-leaf panel.

Physical description

Tapestry depicting birds, animals and flowers within a dense cover of trailing acanthus leaves with an embroidered inscription.

Place of Origin

England, Great Britain (made)

Date

1887 (made)

Artist/maker

William Morris, born 1834 - died 1896 (designer)
Webb, Philip Speakman, born 1831 - died 1915 (designer)
John Henry Dearle, born 1860 - died 1932 (designer)
Merton Abbey Workshop (maker)
Knight, William (maker)
Martin, John (maker)
Sleath, William (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Tapestry woven wool and silk on a cotton warp

Marks and inscriptions

'the beast that be in woodland waste, now sit and see nor ride nor haste'

Dimensions

Height: 121.9 cm, Length: 452.0 cm

Object history note

It is probable that the acanthus depicted in the tapestry was designed by William Morris, animals by Philip Webb and foreground floral details by Henry Dearle.

Historical context note

The Forest Tapestry was woven at Morris' tapestry works, Merton Abbey, in 1887. With its elaborately filigreed patterning and sumptuous detail, the tapestry is a superb example of Morris' revivial of the craftsmanly richness and precision of medieval art. It was acquired from the artist by Aleco Ionides of 1 Holland Park from which heirs the museum purchased it in 1926.

Descriptive line

The Forest, tapestry woven wool and silk on a cotton warp, designed by William Morris, Philip Webb and John Henry Dearle, woven at Merton Abbey by William Knight, John Martin and William Sleath, 1887.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Parry, Linda, ed. William Morris. London: Philip Wilson Publishers Limited, 1996. 384 p., ill. ISBN 0856674419
Karen Livingstone and Linda Parry, eds., International Arts & Crafts (V&A: V&A Publications, 2005), p.16.

Exhibition History

The Victoria and Albert Museum: Art and Design For All (Kunst und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn 18/11/2011-15/04/2012)
International Arts & Crafts (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco 18/06/2006-18/08/2006)
International Arts & Crafts (Indianapolis Museum of Art 27/09/2005-22/01/2006)
International Arts & Crafts (Victoria and Albert Museum 17/03/2005-24/07/2005)
Life and Art: Arts and Crafts from Morris to Mingei (Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Nagoya 12/06/2009-16/08/2009)
Life and Art: Arts and Crafts from Morris to Mingei (Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo 24/01/2009-05/04/2009)
Life and Art: Arts and Crafts from Morris to Mingei (The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto 13/09/2008-09/11/2008)
Saved! 100 Years of the National Art Collections Fund (Hayward Gallery 23/10/2003-23/10/2003)

Labels and date

International Arts & Crafts
Morris placed great value on work and the joy of craftsmanship. His belief in the natural beauty of materials led him to learn and revive traditional skills such as natural dyeing, hand block printing and tapestry weaving. This design is one of Morris & Co.'s most successful compositions. [17/03/2005]

Associated names

Ionides

Materials

Cotton; Silk; Wool

Techniques

Weaving

Subjects depicted

Flowers; Lion; Acanthus; Peacock; Fox; Hare; Raven

Categories

Textiles

Collection code

T&F

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Qr_O89213
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