Anarchy & Beauty

The River Thames by Sasha Ward

My third Kelmscott repeat design features the river and has been stuck at the stage above since August, so I returned to the river Thames for some winter drawing. Does it feel melancholy because I have read William Morris' descriptions of the place so many times?

"…though it has a sadness about it which is not gloom but the melancholy born of beauty I suppose it is very stimulating to the imagination".

"…and am writing among the grey gables and rook haunted trees, with a sense of the place being almost too beautiful to work in". from WM's letters to Louisa Macdonald Baldwin in 1871 and 1872.

two of my winter drawings

two of my winter drawings

The "Anarchy & Beauty" Exhibition includes May Morris' embroidery of the river. I chose this work to write about on The National Portrait Gallery blog of modern makers' responses to the exhibition.

Extract here :

This small embroidered rectangle by May Morris is the best representation of the River Thames at Kelmscott that I have seen. I love the dense overlapping stitches she used to show the plants and the flat landscape beside the water. I spent last summer drawing along the banks of the river and in Kelmscott Manor, the Morris’ country home just a stone’s throw away. The huge expressive stitches on the embroidered hangings in the Manor gave me an incredible sense of the presence of William Morris, his wife Jane and their daughters Jenny and May. I wondered whether they would have approved of what I was doing there as Artist in Residence as I found my own way of depicting the house and garden in the melancholy Oxfordshire landscape.