Selections from the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection
A Study of Kelmscott Manor.
Ink and watercolor heightened with body color, c. 1904
William Morris leased Kelmscott Manor as his country residence from 1871 until his death in 1896, and his family lived there until the 1930s. The old Cotswold Tudor house on the Thames was a great inspiration to Morris, who drew upon its garden and landscape for his famous fabric and wallpaper patterns and for his writings, particularly his Socialist-utopian novel, News from Nowhere. In this watercolor, the Pre-Raphaelite associate Marie Stillman shows the house’s garden as an ideal example of the “old English” cottage garden style advocated by Morris in his criticism and fiction. The figure, as medieval as she is Edwardian, calls to mind the medieval revival ideals which infused Morris’s artwork, his politics, and his beloved Kelmscott home.
Wood and Garden: Notes and Thoughts, Critical and Practical, of a Working Amateur. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1899.
Gertrude Jekyll was the most popular British garden designer of the Edwardian period. Drawing upon William Morris’s Arts and Crafts ideals and the work of gardener and writer William Robinson, Jekyll advocated for gardens made up of spaces enclosed by hedges and walls, for planting in the “cottage” style of large simple beds filled with effusively flowering old-fashioned plants, and for the naturalization of bulbs and shrubs in woodland settings, creating idealized “natural” gardens. Her wildly popular books and articles spread her quintessentially English style far and wide, and her colorful and richly textured herbaceous borders have proved especially influential throughout the last century.
Red House, Upton
Photomechanical engraving on Kelmscott Press paper, c. 1899?
Red House, a medievalist Arts and Crafts house designed by Phillip Webb in 1859, was William Morris’s first home with his wife, Jane. The entire house was a venue for Morris and his friends’ decorative arts experiments, and it was there that Morris first attempted to create a medieval-style garden, planting the enclosure of rose trellises which inspired his first wallpaper design, Trellis, of 1862. Around the peaked wellhead, pictured here, Morris left the lawn bare, eschewing the popular, ornate, and exotic Victorian flowerbeds which he derided in his writing in favor of informal simplicity.
Frontispiece for The Early Italian Poets
Photomechanical etching.. 1907, from a drawing of 1861
Rossetti painted flowers, though not often gardens, throughout his career, exploring both the plants’ symbolic meanings and their sensual qualities. This etching, reproduced from a much earlier drawing, shows that during his most medievalist phase Rossetti, like Morris, was interested in medieval garden forms, most notably the rose trellis fences inspired by illustrated manuscripts depicting stories such as Le Roman de la Rose. This print reproduces one of the several designs Rossetti made—but did not use—for the frontispiece to his book of translations, The Early Italian Poets.