M977X.169.2 | Curtain

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William Morris
1876-1886, 19th century
319 x 213 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Curtain (4)
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Keys to History

This curtain designed by William Morris (1834-96), featuring interlaced tulips and roses, illustrates the popularity of floral motifs. Condemning the Victorian era's move away from hand design and craftsmanship, Morris offers an alternative aesthetic to the saturated interior and mechanical reproduction that helped fill it. As chairs become softly upholstered and fringed, the upholsterer begins to turn his attention towards curtains. Some upholsterers make them more voluminous, trailing on the floor, often with massive folds forming valances. In 1868, a decade before this pattern is designed, Charles Eastlake mentions that he prefers to let curtains hang straight to avoid dust accumulation and create a continuous line for the eye to follow. Freely draped, they are easy to draw. Morris and Company's curtains are straight and not overtly flamboyant. Ironically the designs are as busy as those of textiles mass produced elsewhere. The domestic interior remains crowded, although the lines are cleaner and more architectural.

Charles L. Eastlake, Hints on Household Taste: The Classic Handbook of Victorian Interior Decoration (1868; reprint, New York: Dover, 1969), pp. 94-96.

Morris and Company: . . . From the Collection of Stanford and Helen Berger. Catalogue of exhibition held March 4-May 4 (Stanford, Ca.: Stanford Art Gallery, 1975).

A. Baumgarten Esq. [on line]

  • What

    This "tulip and rose"-patterned curtain may have been used as a door covering. It is made from woollen triple cloth in shades of blue, red and cream.

  • Where

    It originally hung in the Baumgarten House, now the McGill University Faculty Club, at 3450 McTavish Street in Montreal. Another sample is in the Art Institute of Chicago collections.

  • When

    The curtain pattern was registered on January 20, 1876. The house was built a decade later, between 1885 and 1887.

  • Who

    The manufacturer was the Heckmondville Manufacturing Company. Alfred Baumgarten (died 1919), owner of the house where the curtain hung, was a German sugar magnate, philanthropist and hunter.