The friendship between William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones began when they met as undergraduates in 1853 and lasted until Morris' death in 1896, despite their differences in temperament and in attitudes to political engagement. This friendship was one of the defining features of both their lives, and yet the overlap in their artistic projects has not previously been considered in detail. In this deeply thoughtful book, Caroline Arscott explores particular aspects of the paintings of Burne-Jones and the designs of Morris and concludes that there are close interconnections in theme, allusion, and formal strategy between the works of the two men. She suggests that themes of bodily pain, desire and appetite are central to their vision. Through careful readings of Burne-Jones' painting and Morris' designs for printed wallpapers and textiles, she shows that it is possible to bring together fine art and design in a linked discussion that illuminates the projects of both artists.
Caroline Arscott is senior lecturer, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London.