William Morris exhibition at the La Piscine museum: Roubaix at English time

What do a wallpaper signed William Morris, a skull made up of an assembly of colored pencils imagined by Luke Newton, a cashmere and silk “visit” jacket designed by Worth or a photograph of Elizabeth II affixing her royal signature on the guestbook of the city of Roubaix?

These correspondences are to be discovered at La Piscine: the “Roubaix at English time” season offers temporary exhibitions, tours through the collections, conferences, screenings, workshops for children… The one that was nicknamed the Manchester of the North and prided itself on XIXe century of the status of world capital of wool celebrates its multiple links with the neighboring island, its arts and its industry.

Art within everyone’s reach

This English autumn honors the multidisciplinary work of William Morris (1834-1896) whose museum of Roubaix offers the first French retrospective. If Brexit and the pandemic have hampered the circulation of pieces from the United Kingdom to the walls of the museum, the hanging with the theatrical charm and the tight but eloquent choice of pieces (a large part at the Musée d’Orsay) make it possible to identify the yet very vast universe of the artist.

Founder with a group of friends in 1861 of the decoration company Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co, prefiguring the Arts & Crafts movement, William Morris was driven by a conviction where politics and aesthetics were mixed in a common aspiration: “I don’t want art for a few more than education for a few or freedom for a few. »

Close to the Pre-Raphaelite painters, including Edward Burne-Jones whom he met during his studies at Oxford, Morris “refuse a joyless land”merging art and everyday life: “Have nothing in your house that you don’t know is useful or that you don’t think beautiful. » Here are furniture with simple lines and warming curtains, literally and figuratively, the walls beset by the winter cold. Here are stained glass windows with medieval motifs diffracting the light and, nowadays reproduced in an industrial way (which their author would have condemned!), the famous floral wallpapers, such as the undulating Burnets available in pastel shades or more dazzling colours.

Designer, poet, theoretician and bibliophile, William Morris also embarked on the publication of works within the Kelmscott Press, a haughty response to the Victorian editions that he considered “vulgar”

Reconcile opposites?

Rare, artisanal, requiring noble materials, Morris’ creations could not reach the “general public” for which he intended them. These are the limits of his generous and paradoxical utopia. Are originality and mass consumption, elevation and commercialism not still in constant tension today?

Failing to answer it, the Briton Luke Newton, born in 1987, faces this nagging question. Anchored in contemporary madness and violence, his vibrant works in pop colors shake up as much as they seduce.

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