TALK: SUZANNE FAGENCE COOPER; At home with Jane & William Morris


Friday 18th September 2020

In the summer of 1860, Jane and William moved into their brand-new home, The Red House, in Kent. For five busy years, their home was a gathering place for artists, poets and architects. Suzanne Fagence Cooper exploreed the Morris’s remarkable partnership and how the friendships forged in these early years transformed British art and design. William and Jane pioneered alternative ways of home-making. They worried about wastefulness. They asked tough questions about making, buying and selling. William set about revolutionising how Victorian houses were furnished. And Jane, by transforming herself and her domestic surroundings, showed how the home could be a creative space, a source of intellectual and physical refreshment.

For both, the garden was an essential part of home and every Spring was an adventure. Jane wrote from Italy, later in life: ‘they tell me that flowers are coming up in the garden, and blossom on fruit trees.’ This sense of possibility, of new growth, of fruitfulness was woven through all their schemes for their life together. Drawing on letters, diaries and the wealth of objects they made and treasured, this talk opens up new ways of thinking about, in Morris’s words, ‘How we live and how we might live’.

Dr. Suzanne Fagence Cooper is a writer, broadcaster and curator who spent 12 years at the V&A Museum, researching the Victorian collections. As an expert on 19 th and 20 th century British art, she is in demand as a lecturer for the Arts Society, and as an invited speaker for Cunard voyages. She was Research Curator for the exhibition, ‘Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud,’ held at York Art Gallery in 2019. She is an historical consultant for the BBC and Channel 4, and advised Ralph Fiennes on his film, ‘The Invisible Woman’, about Dickens and the actress Ellen Ternan. Suzanne’s publications include ‘Pre-Raphaelite Art in the V&A Museum’ and the biography of ‘Effie Gray’. Her most recent book is ‘To See Clearly: Why Ruskin Matters’ (Quercus 2019). She is currently writing ‘How we might live: At Home with Jane and William Morris’.

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