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William Morris (1834-1896) was born in Walthamstow, Essex, the son of a wealthy city stockbroker. He was educated at Marlborough public school, then went to Oxford, where he met Edward Burne-Jones and Philip Webb, both of whom became lifelong friends. Both Morris and Burne-Jones intended entering the Church, but they gained inspiration from the writings of John Ruskin, and decided they wanted to become artists. Ruskin saw the work of Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood as 'the dawn of a new era of art'. Through Burne-Jones, he met Rossetti and other Pre-Raphaelite painters. Encouraged by Rossetti, Morris turned from architecture to painting, and was at the same time writing poetry. In 1859 he married Jane Burden, the archetypal Pre-Raphaelite beauty with brooding eyes, who appears in several of Rossetti's paintings. Early in their marriage they moved into 'Red House' in Bexleyheath, Kent, which had been designed for them by Philip Webb. Here the Morrises and their friends conceived the idea of 'The Firm' in 1861. Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co, later to become Morris & Co, famous for its arts and crafts work. His greatest achievement as a designer was in the field of textiles and wallpapers. In 1883 became a socialist and along with Walter Crane, Eleanor Marx and Edward Aveling formed the Socialist League. Strongly influenced by the ideas of William Morris, the party published a manifesto where it advocated revolutionary international socialism.


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