Lynn Hulse specialises in historic needlework, c. 1200-1920 and lectures regularly at conferences, museums, galleries and other institutions across the UK, Ireland and North America. If you are interested in booking her for a talk (in person or via zoom), click on this link to email:
Forthcoming lectures include:
The Fabric of Flowers, The Gardens Trust
17 October 2022, 6.00pm
"Gardening with silk and gold thread": botanical imagery in the work of the art embroidery designers Gertrude Jekyll and May Morris
The development of the English cottage garden in the hands of the Irish horticulturalist and journalist William Robinson (1838-1935) had a marked effect on the textile arts during the final decades of the nineteenth century. Author of The Wild Garden (1870) and The English Flowered Garden (1883), Robinson rejected the artificiality and formality of High Victorian pattern gardening in favour of naturalised plantings of perennial shrubs and climbers. His revolutionary approach was reflected in the choice of botanical imagery featured in the work of many Arts and Crafts designers, including two of the leading exponents of art embroidery: Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) and May Morris (1862-1938).
Jekyll’s reputation as an artist and craftswoman has been eclipsed by her contribution to garden history. Few of her admirers today are aware that her skills as an interior designer were much sought after by the Victorian elite. In 1874, she was commissioned by the Royal School of Needlework to design a suite of sixteen wall hangings, twelve of which have recently come to light, for the great drawing room at Eaton Hall in Cheshire, home of Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, Duke of Westminster (1825-1899). Jekyll’s elaborate, floriated pattern reveals her indebtedness to the designer Christopher Dresser (1834-1904), with whom she studied botanical drawing and ornament at the National Art Training School in South Kensington.
A constant theme in the work of May Morris is her love of English meadow plants and cottage garden flowers. Throughout her life, she made detailed studies of plant life to familiarise herself ‘with all the possible peculiarities and diversities of such things.’ But like many other writers on art embroidery, she recognised that the designer’s work ‘should merely recall nature, not absolutely copy it’ (Decorative Needlework, 1893). Morris’s approach to conventional design will be examined through her work for the embroidery department at Morris & Co. and her special commissions and gifts for family and friends.
For more information about the lecture series and to book tickets, https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-fabric-of-flowers-tickets-333794728017
Image: Scrapbook cover, design attributed to May Morris, c. 1890s.
William Morris Society
26 July 2022
William Morris and the Royal School of Art Needlework
Having been lambasted in the press for its ‘incongruous motely of indigested decorative ideas’ at the 1874 International Exhibition of Art and Industry, the Royal School of Art Needlework (RSAN) immediately set about repairing its reputation. An advisory committee of gentlemen skilled in decorative work was appointed to oversee the artistic direction of the School and a special fund provided for the purchase of designs from eminent artists. Conscious of the RSAN’s desire to establish itself as a major outlet for contemporary art embroidery, the advisory committee recommended commissioning material from certain artists, including William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Walter Crane. In July 1875, Morris visited the School where he had a ‘long and favourable interview’, and promised designs ‘that could be proceeded with’. These were stitched under the direction of his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Burden, who oversaw the ‘Artistic Room’, specially set aside for working the designs of Morris and his contemporaries. This lecture will explore Morris’s collaboration with the RSAN, including designs such as Peacock and Vine and Honeysuckle displayed at the Philadelphia International Centennial Exhibition (1876), which enjoyed critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic and contributed to the RSAN’s growing reputation among Britain’s leading decorative art furnishers during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
Image: William Morris, 'Design for a wall-hanging' (Honeysuckle, 1875), printed in Letitia Higgin, Handbook of Embroidery (London, 1880).