Peacock and Vine: Fortuny and Morris in Life and at Work, A.S. Byatt 2016

Byatt, a Booker Prize winning novelist and short story writer in England, has written a small and rather unusual book about two artists/craftsmen who, I would guess, have rarely if ever been paired.  William Morris (1834-1896) was an Englishman who was a leader in the Arts and Crafts movement, designing patterns featuring plants and birds from the English countryside for wallpaper, curtains, ceiling covers, etc.  Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949) was a Spanish aristocrat working in Venice whose designs were devoted to women’s fashion and stage sets.  Morris was in thrall to Iceland and the Norse myths.  Fortuny was in thrall to the south, especially Islamic art.  Byatt thought to pair these two artisans while walking through the Fortuny Palace in Venice when she flashed back on Morris’s homes in England, The Red House and Kelmscott Manor.  The book is a small gem with high quality photographs of the patterns which the two artists originated.  Looking forward to visiting the Fortuny Museum this month when we visit Venice.

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