William Morris was the son of a wealthy nineteenth century mine
owner--but when he went to school (Exeter College at Oxford), he met
two men who influenced his views about the industrial process: Edward
Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
The three young men were artists and formed a group called ?The
Pre?Raphaelite Brotherhood.? They studied the art of the Medieval
period and took part in what they called a "crusade and holy warfare"
against the art of their own time period. They believed the Medieval
period was ideal for artists and craftsmen--that artist and craftsmen
were one and the same during that time period. (The group was heavily
influenced by the writing of art critic John Ruskin, who praised
Medieval artists and claimed contemporary artists were slaves of the
Morris believed that artists of his time were only a shadow of what
they once were, because they relied on machinery and industrialization
to create their art. Mass-produced items, designed by one person and
created by a factory worker were the bane of modern art, he said.
Morris despised ?the lack of artistic individuality, which was lost
because of the dull mass production of patterns and ornaments by
machines and the cheap imitation of industrial goods.? (?Ideal of Arts
and Crafts,? http://www.uni-potsdam.de/u/anglistik/stud_pro/morris/programmierung/ideal/
) Morris said, ?Today almost all wares that are made by civilized man
are shabbily and pretentiously ugly...[houses are filled] with tons
and tons of unutterable rubbish,? worthy only of burning. ?As a
condition of life, production by machinery is altogether evil.?
(?William Morris: The Man Who (Re)Discovered Art with a little ?a?:
Morris increasingly saw the Industrial Revolution as causing a
separation between manual labour and brainwork, designer and creator.
This was deeply disconcerting to him.
The Brotherhood focused on craftsmanship and creating art by hand (as
it had always been done previous to the 18th and 19th centuries, when
the industrialization movement began.)Morris firmly believed that the
artist should also be a craftsman. He should not only conceive the
artwork, but should create it.
Additionally, Morris believed that the rich should not be the only
ones to enjoy art. It was his goal to educate the masses about art,
gain their appreciation, and have them use art in their everyday
lives. (When Morris established his own company, which paired
designers and craftsmen in a non?industrialized process, his critics
claimed that he failed in his own ideals: Because his products weren?t
mass-produced, they were too expensive for the majority of people to
?In the 1870s Morris became upset by the aggressive foreign policy of
the Conservative Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli. In began writing
to newspapers and publishing pamphlets where he attacked Disraeli and
supported the anti-imperialism of the Liberal Party leader, William
Gladstone. However, he became disillusioned with Gladstone's Liberal
Government that gained power after the 1880 General Election and by
1883 Morris had become a socialist.? (?William Morris,?
Indeed, Morris soon began writing socialist and communist literature,
which included arguments against ?the evils? of industrialization.
Morris said, ?The leading passion of my life is hatred of modern
civilization." What began as a belief that change was needed in the
art world, grew into a political obsession. Morris felt there was not
just a growing lack of real art because of industry, but a growing gap
between the rich and poor, an increasing level of poverty, and rising
unemployment--all the fault of the Industrial Revolution, he said.
Morris came to believe that if industrial machines were abolished,
mankind would be free from poverty.
You may also find this article, discussing the true label for Morris?
political beliefs, helpful: ?Inhaling All The Forces of Nature,?
"William Morris" industrial