Monday 21 November 2016

Lots to See and Do

We've just updated our Of Interest page (see tab above) to direct you to Morris and Morris-related events coming up around the world.

Please let us know if there's something we've missed!

Flaming June
Frederic Leighton, 1895 ©Museo de Arte de Ponce. The Luis A. Ferré Foundation, Inc.

Monday 7 November 2016

The Fall so Far

What a long and beautiful fall it has been, and there are still many leaves on the trees, mainly just the yellow ones left now.

The annual WMSC fall weekend trip was another highly enjoyable success, timed to coincide with the height of the fall colours (October 15/16), and this year the visit was to Collingwood.

And last week William Whitla presented an excellent introduction to Morris, "The Life and Work of William Morris" in Elizabeth Beeton Auditorium at the central Toronto Reference Library. JUST when you thought you knew a lot about Morris, Bill illuminated us still further in a most uplifting and informative illustrated presentation.

The WMSC will pause to celebrate the season at our annual dinner, and then please watch our Future Events tab at the top for some exciting events in the new year!

Below: the first four images are from the Collingwood tour, the first three taken by WMSC president Susan Pekilis. The top picture is Claverleigh, built 1871, now a national historic site near Creemore. The second and third pictures are the federal building in Collingwood, built 1914. And the fourth picture is by member Ria Harvey, showing some trip attendees against some lovely fall trees.

The bottom two images are from William Whitla's talk at the Toronto Reference Library, taken by WMSC board member Gianna Wichelow.

Sunday 30 October 2016


As previously announced, on Tuesday, November 1, William Whitla will present a lecture titled, The Life and Work of William Morris.

Its still the same date, the same place, but the start time has changed from 7 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Hope to see you there!

Toronto Reference Library
Elizabeth Beeton Auditorium, main floor
789 Yonge Street, Toronto

Tip: The library is just a short walk up Yonge Street, north of Bloor. Nearest subway: Yonge/Bloor subway station.

1881: What a Year!

Last month members of the WMSC gathered for our Annual General Meeting and an entertaining and informative illustrated lecture, 1881: A Year in the Life of William Morris, presented by past-president John Wichelow (left).
The location was once again the Textile Museum of Canada, which has a comfortable auditorium. First off president Susan Pekilis and treasurer Dale Moore gave encouraging reports of the past year's activities and finances. After a break for refreshments, it was lecture time.

Last year, John gave a similar talk, focusing on the year 1876. This format is particularly successful in giving us a more fulsome picture of Morris as a real person, a remarkable one at that, who poured more energy and productivity in a year than some do in a lifetime. So the society was delighted to repeat it.

1881 was action-packed and bursting with idealism. This wonderful and unfortunately still timely quote was from a letter he wrote on January 1 of that year to Georgiana Burne-Jones:

“… and my mind is very full of the great change which I hope is slowly coming over the world, and of which surely this new year will be one of the landmarks…. a word of hope for the new year, that it may do a good turn of work toward the abasement of the rich and the raising up of the poor, which is of all things most to be longed for, till people can at last rub out from their dictionaries altogether those dreadful words rich and poor”.

We were reminded of how productive Morris was, how driven and inspired in all aspects of his interests, from design to class struggles, conservation to politics. We learned more about his close friendships and his devotion to his family. And it left us wanting more. Hopefully next year we can learn about another year in the fascinating life of William Morris.

Thursday 8 September 2016

Fall for Morris!

We have it on good authority that fall is not far off, and in keeping with the shortening days and lengthening nights, the WMSC has got a great line up over three evenings.

Check out our FUTURE EVENTS tab above to find out more.

Our Annual General Meeting takes place on Tuesday, September 20 at the Textile Museum of Canada. The short meeting will be followed by an illustrated lecture, "1881: A Year in Morris" presented by John Wichelow. Last year John presented a similar lecture on 1876. It was a very successful format and that's why we're repeating it. Morris has many highly productive and interesting years in his busy, brilliant life.

Over the weekend of October 15/16 we are running the Collingwood Heritage Tour, another in our series of highly popular weekend excursions, this time to the southern shore of Georgian Bay, where we will explore the area’s history and architecture! As in previous fall excursions, transport will be by luxury coach, and the costs include all meals and overnight accommodation at the Cranberry Resort. These will be two fun, packed days with visits to galleries, musuems, craft studios and a number of architectural treasures from grand homes to a log cabin and even a jail!

On Tuesday, November 1, join us for an illustrated lecture by Professor William Whitla, titled "The Life and Work of William Morris." This is a great way to introduce newbies to the wonderful Morris, so please share this information widely! This lecture is jointly sponsored by the Toronto Reference Library and takes place in the Elizabeth Beeton Auditorium.

Image: Portrait of William Morris by George Frederic Watts

Wednesday 17 August 2016

More Arts and Crafts Delights During a Visit to Italy. Part 2 of 2: Rome

A few more pictures and a bit more information on WMSC member Gianna Wichelow's summer visit to Italy.

I didn't plan to find anything of an Arts and Crafts nature while in Italy; that wasn't in the plans. But when I got to Rome, just a bit of googling resulted in me deciding to carve out some time to visit two promising locations.

Just as Florence has its English church, St. Mark's, so Rome has its American church, St. Paul's Within the Walls (Episcopal), noted for being the first Protestant church built in Rome. Designed by George Edmund Street in Gothic Revival Style, it opened in 1880 and features- wait for it - a stunning set of mosaics by Edward Burne-Jones!

Which is all very exciting until I got there and found out that the murals were OUT FOR REPAIR (estimate time: a year) and so they'd hung printed screens to approximate the look of the mosaics, which I thought was very good of the chuch, but I wanted to see the real thing! Well, I guess I'll have to go back when they're in place once more! You can see pictures of the real things here, on the church's website.

And now this, straight from Wikipedia:

Burne-Jones designed cartoons which he sent to Venice, together with specifications for the colours to be used. The Venice and Murano Glass and Mosaic Company mounted tesserae onto the cartoons, and the resulting assemblies were then installed in the church. The selection of colours, based on sample tiles sent to England by the company, was a collaboration between Burne-Jones and William Morris. Burne-Jones did not travel to Italy to supervise the work, instead sending his assistant, Thomas Rooke. There are four Burne-Jones mosaics. The Annunciation and The Tree of Life, both completed in 1894, are over successive arches of the chancel, leading towards the apse, whose semi-dome displays Christ Enthroned in the Heavenly Jerusalem, completed in 1885. The fourth mosaic, known as The Earthly Paradise or The Church Militant, lower down on the wall of the apse, was completed in 1907 by Rooke, after Burne-Jones's death.

My second point of interest was the Quartiere Coppedè, also known as Rome's fantasy neighbourhood. Okay, this is a little crazy. Architect Gino Coppede was basically given carte blanche and he had fun with it, erecting the buildings between 1913 and 1927. You can read more about it in this New York Times article from 1997, "Rome's Mischevious Architect". My pictures don't do it justice (these do) but you can get an idea of the jumble of styles, all exuberantly justaposed, from Medieval to Baroque, Ancient Greek to Art Deco. Once you go under the massive arch that welcomes you, you'll be in the Piazza Mincia with its ornate frog fountain... it's just gorgeous, fun and untamed, and, not surprisingly horror film director Dario Argento has filmed some of his movies here. The decoration is remarkable, and certainly elements of Art Deco and Art Nouveau feature prominently. Morris may not have thought much of it, but I think it's worth a visit for your next Roman holiday.

Some Arts and Crafts Delights During a Visit to Italy. Part 1 of 2: Florence

WMSC member Gianna Wichelow spent June in Florence and Rome... and on her travels found a few exciting spots that she recommends for future trips if you're an admirer of Morris and his circle. Here are a few photographs:

St. Mark's English Church, Florence, was founded by the Reverend Charles Tooth, and its current site (a 15th-century palazzo) was purchased in 1880. John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, a second-wave Pre-Raphaelite and uncle/teacher to Evelyn de Morgan, designed and created the wall and ceiling decorations at his own expense, with stencil designs by George Frederick Bodley. The church was active by 1881, and the premises were enlarged by the purchase of the site next door. The striking paintings inside the church are by mostly unidentified Italian artists. William Holman Hunt lost his young wife in Florence, where she is buried. He set her wedding ring into the stem of a chalice he designed for the church. The terrible flooding of the Arno in 1966 damaged the lower part of the stencilled walls, now covered up.

Stanhope had close connections to Edward Burne-Jones and George Frederic Watts. And his home, Sandroyd, was designed by Philip Webb, whose only previous house design up to that point had been William Morris's Red House.

The church remains very active and is a warm and welcoming place, featuring opera performances and lots of visiting choirs. But whatever your interest, I urge you to visit it if you're in Florence.

The Salvatore Ferragamo Museum has a stunning exhibition on, "Tra Arte e Moda," which explores the links and inspirations between art and fashion, artists and designers. This is an outstanding collection of ideas and objects, and one of the display cases featured examples of esthetic dress. Photographs of Jane Morris, William's wife, were taken by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (and others) to inspire his paintings, and those paintings helped inspire a new, looser form of dress which Liberty helped popularize.

Monday 15 August 2016

Symposium: Morris and the Natural World

On the weekend of June 25/26, the William Morris Society of Canada enjoyed a gorgeous Toronto weekend, full of nature and Morris.

The Saturday comprised a full-day symposium on the topic, Morris and the Natural World. The speakers and their subjects were as follows:

Designing a new world: Arts and Crafts communities in the Cotswold countryside
Mary Greensted, curator, lecturer and writer
(United Kingdom)

Designing with Flora and Fauna: Morris’s Top 20
Sheila Latham, author, librarian, visual artist

Morris’s Garden at Red House
Sarah Rutherford, writer, garden historian and horticulturist
(United Kingdom)

Natural Heritage Preservation: a Canadian Example
Jim Hill, Superintendent of Heritage, Niagara Parks Commission

The Beauty and Romance of Arts and Crafts Gardens
Sarah Rutherford (see above)

The audience of 80 enjoyed the lectures and lunch at University College, on the U of T campus.

On the Sunday, there was a tour and tea in one of Wychwood Park's most beautiful Arts and Crafts homes. And Toronto didn't disappoint: it had been a beautiful June, unusually warm and sunny and the city was looking beautiful, and Wychwood Park especially so.

Don't forget to keep checking our Future Events page (see tab at the top) to see what else we are getting up to this year!

Photo by Ann Gagné

A Visit to St. James' Cemetery

Remember last summer and how often our planned walk got rained out? Well this May, we finally held our St. James' Cemetery walk, led by member and past-President, John Wichelow.

We learned about the history of this lovely Gothic Revival Chapel of St.-James-the-Less which was opened in 1861 and remains an important example of this architectural style in Canada.

We toured the cemetery and its eclectic collection of headstones, crypts and statuary, honouring some of Canada's most illustrious characters, including the mausoleum (below), an Egyptian Revival edifice which is the final resting place of Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Sir Kazimierz Stanislaus Gzowski (1813 – 1898).

Along the route, the song "Galway Bay" was rendered by several members in homage to William Hume Blake, QC (1809 – 1870), an Irish-Canadian jurist and politician. His ancestors were counted among the Tribes of Galway.

The walk ended just in time. Those of us who ended up in the pub, the House on Parliament got there just as the rain started, and so we rounded out the afternoon with good cheer and beer well into the evening.


Tuesday 31 May 2016

Details of This Year's Symposium!

William Morris and the Natural World will take place on Saturday, June 25. This all-day event will include lunch, and the opportunity to book for the following day's Wychwood Park garden tour and tea. All the details, including cost and how to register, can be found by clicking our Future Events tab (above).

Also, save the date for October 15/16 of this year, as the WMSC is organizing another of our very popular weekend bus tours, this time to Collingwood!

In the meantime, have a wonderful summer!

Kelmscott Manor. Watercolor, ca. 1905, by Marie Spartali Stillman [Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, on loan to the University of Delaware Library] 

Thursday 21 April 2016

Stubbornly Spring

Last Monday, spring seemed to finally arrive in Toronto, and it was a beautiful evening to stroll the vicinity of University College at the University of Toronto. In a fuller-than-usual Room 179, WMSC board member Dr. Ann Gagné (left) addressed the WMSC on John Ruskin, the founding of the Ruskin Guild, and Ruskin's influence on Morris. Ann gave an inspiring and informative talk, and left most of us wanting to run home and start reading up more on this fascinating topic. Afterwards we retreated to the Prenup Pub for drinks (they have a fantastic beer selection), good food, and excellent conversation (pictured left).

Okay, so spring seems to have backed off a bit here, but we are confident that our St. James Cemetary Walk will be accompanied by warmer weather. Please join us on Saturday, May 7 at 2 p.m. Click on the "Future Events" tab above for all the details (including rain date!). You may recall that last year, this walk was postponed twice and finally shelved for 2016, due to a very rainy start to the summer of 2015.

Anyway, this walk will be followed by a pub gathering in the vicinity, so what's not to love? See you there!

Monday 11 April 2016

Events into the Summer Just Announced!

Please visit our Future Events page (tab at the top of this page) for great new events from April into June.

These include a lecture by Dr. Ann Gagne, entitled Ruskin’s Guild: Craft, Nature, and the Influence on Morris, which takes place next  Monday, April 18, at 7:30 in Room 179 of University College.

Then in May we are having the walk that had to postponed several times last summer due to heavy rain over many weekends. Former WMSC president John Wichelow will lead us around St. James' Cemetary, on Saturday May 7, starting at 2 p.m. Both April and May events will end up in a local pub for Morris-inspired fellowship and conversation.

On Sunday, June 25, a day-long symposium, Morris and the Natural World, will coincide happily with the a beautiful time of year in Toronto. There may even be a visit to a special Toronto garden!

Please visit our Future Events page for all the details and more as they come in.

Image: Trees in a lane, perhaps at Ambleside (1847) by John Ruskin (1819-1900)

Friday 25 March 2016

Happy 182nd Birthday William!

Last Saturday, a group of about 70 members came together at University College to celebrate the 182nd birthday of William Morris. Potter and porcelain artist Joseph Panacci talked very engagingly and enthusiastically about his career, collaborations, influences, Morris, and his passion for wood-fired pottery, assisted by his lovely daughter April, who operated the gorgeous slide show.

Joseph had brought some of his wares which was a good thing, as after the lecture, most of us were salivating to see his pieces in the flesh, as it were. Sales were brisk and then Joseph gave a lovely birthday toast in honour of Morris and the cakes (three this year!) were cut.

The birthday cakes were built by the society cake team of Laura, James and Gianna. They were inspired by the "Faith, Hope and Charity" stained glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones and built by Morris & Co. for Christ Church Cathedral Oxford, although this same design has appeared in other churches too. The cakes were three layers of devil's food chocolate cake, sandwiched with frosting, covered in chocolate fondant, with the centres removed to house battery-operated lighting. You can see a video of the cakes, which shows the lighting quite effectively, on our Facebook page.

Thursday 11 February 2016

Join Us!

Check out our Future Events page (click on tab above) for two exciting happenings this winter at the WMSC!

One of those features Joseph Panacci and his remarkable wood-fired clay creations (pictured to the left).

See you there!

Monday 18 January 2016

Join us for our Next Event!

Presented in conjunction with the Textile Museum of Canada’s 40th anniversary, Home Economics: 150 Years of Canadian Hooked Rugs explores the unique stories and histories that have informed hooked rugs in Canada, the highly recognizable forms of folk art with roots in 19th-century North America. Featuring over 100 hooked rugs from the Museum's rich archive of international material culture, the exhibition represents generations of artisanal entrepreneurship, women’s domestic and collective work, as well as rural development in Canada.

Useful AND beautiful, these rugs are not to be missed. Join us this coming Saturday!

Textile Museum of Canada
55 Centre Avenue, Toronto
(St. Patrick subway station or Dundas 505 streetcar)
Fee at the door for WMSC members and their guests: $10

Visit the Future Events tab (above) for all the information.

Monday 11 January 2016

Of Interest

Keep up to date with what's happening of interest to admirers of William Morris by following our Of Interest page (see tab above). There's a lot happening around the world, in Japan, the U.K., U.S. and here in Canada.

And if we've missed something, please let us know!

Left: Photo of May Morris

Wednesday 6 January 2016

Happy New Year!

All of us here at the William Morris Society of Canada wish all our members and readers a joyful, health-filled year, full of discovery, beauty, craft, and Morris-inspired fellowship and inspiration!

Check out our Future Events page (see tab above) for some great events that are being finalized. These include a private visit to Canada's Textile Museum, a stained-glass tour, a full-day symposium, a spring-time walk, more lectures, more pub visits and a Morris birthday celebration (with cake!).

Stay tuned and please follow us on our social media outlets (see the right-hand column for handy links).