William Morris was one of the greatest of Victorians: a pioneering artist-craftsman, shop keeper and polymath, a passionate protector of the natural and also the man-made environment. He was generous, irascible and hyper-energetic. Most crucially of all he was a visionary thinker, with a concept of a future when the civilised world would have “a new art, a glorious art, made by the people and for the people”.

We must count ourselves as fortunate in having one substantial portrait of William Morris, painted by G.F. Watts and now in the National Portrait Gallery. At the time of Watts’s portrait, ...


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