Two Temple Place is a neo-Gothic mansion on the London Embankment. In 1895, it cost £250,000 to build for William Waldorf Astor, equal to £25million today. The building, which was designed to characterize literature and embody art, craft and architecture, encompasses Spanish mahogany hammer-beam ceilings and marble floors. This dazzling and dramatic building is home to the Bulldog Trust and will be the first London venue to showcase regional collections of publicly owned British art. The trust will host annual exhibitions from galleries across the UK, the first of which is a partnership with the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, while it undergoes redevelopment.
Story, Memory and Myth is the first exhibition to be held at the neo-Tudor building, which has clearly had an influence on the display. The exhibition is arranged by subject and not medium and shows the artist’s interest in Arthurian legend and Greek myth. Being a master of many different media, we see Morris’s portrayal of the same story side by side; with tapestries sitting next to tiles, which are arranged next to stained glass windows. As well as this, there are also books, embroideries, etchings, drawings and wallpaper designs, covering work, not only by Morris, but Edward Burne-Jones too.
The exhibition allows us to see into the workshop of the founder of the Arts and Crafts movement. The house is embellished with literary scenes, with inspiration from the Pre-Raphaelites and Chaucerian Poetry; Morris portrays stories through the art of decoration. It all seems somewhat homely, as though stepping back in time into someone else’s home, personalized with artwork from that era.
Highlights for me include the depiction of fairytales, such as Beauty and the Beast and Pocahontas and a tapestry of Pomona, the full height of the wall to the ceiling, which had previously been unseen for 80 years. Also on show are five panels of The Romaunt of the Rose, which have recently undergone conservation by The Royal School of Needlework.
Morris, with the help of Burne-Jones depicted tales through the art pattern and myth. Inspired by Chaucer, Norse saga and Shakespeare the artist is contemporary with the building and gives its audience a fascinating insight into another time. A beautifully put together show well worth a visit, as will be the redeveloped William Morris Gallery in 2012.
William Morris: Story, Memory, Myth is on at Two Temple Place until 29 January
The William Morris Gallery will reopen in July 2012