0089 Morris Carpets

  • Caroline Arscott (Author)
    The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK

    Former RIHA Journal local editor of The Courtauld Institute of Art, London

Identifiers (Article)


William Morris's carpet designs have been discussed in terms of design scheme, historical sources, naturalism and abstraction. This essay revisits some of these aspects in order to consider Morris's intimations of action. Action was associated by Morris with the pictorial and considered by him to be one of the great resources of oriental carpet design. The article considers the specific historical carpets with which Morris was familiar and discusses the terms used by Morris in assessing the intellectual and aesthetic value of historical carpets. It discusses the way that the knot in the fabric of the carpet might have been understood by Morris as analogous to knots and interlacements in the design. It goes on to propose that the knot was also understood in relation to linkages, contests, cultural exchange and forms of interconnection in human history. There is a discussion of common ground between Morris's discussion of ornament (in terms of cultural transmission) and ideas set out by Alois Riegl. The carpet Clouds,made by Morris & Co. in 1885 for Clouds, East Knoyle, Wiltshire is the central example.


William Morris, Alois Riegl, Ornament, Cloud bands, Carpet weaving, Knots