Perpetuating the memory of one of the greatest men of the Victorian age


Posted on May 6, 2020

Caricature of William Morris by Edward Burne-Jones, 1888

Edward Burne-Jones, well known for his beautiful paintings, also loved to create amusing caricatures of those dearest to him including his lifelong friend and colleague William Morris. His cartoons of Morris, many of which date from the 1860s and 1870s, mostly focus on Morris undertaking the many crafts and pursuits he was involved with over the years. From sketches of him eating and drinking, riding his pony in Iceland to reading poetry and cutting woodblocks, Burne-Jones’s fond drawings of his great friend provide a delightfully entertaining visual insight into Morris’s varied pursuits.

This endearing and affectionate caricature shows Morris demonstrating weaving, with the following inscription by EBJ:

“I should like to see him at work” E Burne-Jones ARA, Nov 1, 1888

The first Arts & Crafts Exhibition took place in 1888 at the New Gallery in Regent Street and was accompanied by a series of lectures by Arts & Crafts practitioners. Morris spoke on ‘Tapestry’ with a display of examples of tapestries including his own seventeenth century Persian carpet from the dining room at Kelmscott House, Hammersmith. Morris also gave a practical demonstration of weaving, inspiring this affectionate cartoon. Morris considered tapestry to be the noblest of the weaving arts and he began mastering the art when a loom was installed in his small bedroom at Kelmscott House.

Text by Helen Elletson, WMS Curator

Image: William Morris lectures at the New Gallery on Tapestry Weaving, EBJ drawing 1888