‘William Morris’ returns and Alfred Stevens discovered

Event Details
Date: , 2023
Time: to
Location: Events Suite Level 2
Venue: M Shed, BS1 4RN
With: Ciaran Walsh, Roger Ball
Series: Bristol Radical History Festival 2023
Page Details
William Morris at age 53
William Morris at age 53 (Wiki commons)

Art and Labour

William Morris (1834-1896) was, and is, one of England’s most famous nineteenth-century socialists. On the 3rd March 1885, the famous Victorian designer came to Bristol to deliver a talk on “Art and Labour,” at the Museum and Art Gallery. Addressed particularly to the workers of the city, the event was sponsored by the Bristol Branch of the Socialist League. His words as an artist and thinker could not have been more relevant at a time when the British Empire was on the ascendent, and the home nations were known as the “Workshop of the World” due to their dominant manufacturing base.

Morris was phenomenally productive and was an extraordinarily creative talent. He lived for 62 years, by today’s standards a relatively short life. In this time, his multiple roles included Pre-Raphaelite artist, founder of the Socialist League, businessman and wallpaper designer, novelist and poet, proto-environmentalist and founder of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. It would not be quite true, however, to say that we shall not see his like again. In the guise of radical historian and performer, Ciaran Walsh, Morris will join us once more to share his ideas on Art and Labour. We are excited to welcome both Ciaran and, after an absence of 138 years, “William Morris,” back to Bristol.

“Do not let us fix our standard of endeavour by the misery which has been, but rather by the happiness that might be.”

Self-Portrait at the Age of 14 1832 Alfred Stevens

From Rioter to Romantic

Alfred Stevens was born in Blandford, Dorset in 1817 into an artisan family; his father was a house and sign painter. At 13 years of age, Stevens and his friends were involved in three days of rioting in Blandford over the defeat of the Second Refom Bill by Tory Lords. At 16, Stevens was sponsored to study in Italy, returning to England nine years later as an accomplished draughtsman and artist. He would go on to become one of the great (though unkown) sculptor, painter and designers of the Victorian period. This talk will briefly cover the life and times of Stevens, his connections with radical politics in the period and and his own struggle with the practice of  ‘art and labour’.

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