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London: William Morris Gallery reopens after renovation

October 11, 2012|By John Lee
  • The Woodpecker Tapestry was created in 1885 and is the only such work designed by William Morris.
The Woodpecker Tapestry was created in 1885 and is the only such work designed… (William Morris Gallery )

Northeast London's William Morris Gallery has reopened after an $8-million overhaul that has reinvigorated the childhood home of Britain's Arts and Crafts pioneer.

This elegant parkland villa in Walthamstow -- a free-entry attraction -- showcases Morris' oeuvre, from curlicue tapestries to heroic-themed stained glass, using touchscreens, interactive activities and period artifacts to illuminate a Victorian who believed beauty was essential to human existence.

The first of nine rooms introduces Morris, stoking your interest for the next room’s early experiments in painting, embroidery and furniture-making. These triggered the creation of the interior design firm Morris & Co., which aimed to combine art and functionality in everyday homes. Look out for its first wallpaper, a richly flowered 1862 creation.

But changing the look of the world wasn’t enough for Morris. Upstairs, the gallery explores his anti-capitalist writings -- he thought industrialization was deeply dehumanizing -- including "News from Nowhere," a bestselling utopian novel satirizing society.

Printing rather than writing dominated Morris' final years. His Kelmscott Press' achingly beautiful tomes line the next room, including a Chaucer anthology teeming with mesmerizing illustrations. Morris thought that even reading should be an engagement with beauty.

Info: In Lloyd Park in Walthamstow, a 10-minute walk from Walthamstow Central underground and mainland train station, The gallery is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. Admission is free.

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