Friday, February 29, 2008

The Beauty of the Undone

I'm currently reading William Morris and Red House. Today's blog features a picture found in the book. The image is of the doors to the settle in the entry way of Red House, painted by William Morris. Notice anything? It's not finished. William Morris most likely began painting the settle doors when he and his family first moved into Red House. I don't know the history of the settle from that point on, but I'm guessing it was probably moved with the family. The point is....William Morris most likely lived with this settle for the rest of his life, never finishing the figures on the doors.

I have always thought of William Morris as a figure of near superhuman voraciousness for lifelong learning. Famously, a doctor at his bedside diagnosed his cause of death as "simply being William Morris and having done more work than most ten men." His reputation is well-deserved, and I don't feel it is lessened at all by learning a lesson from the settle doors: even the greatest of artists leaves work undone.

I love to write and do art, yet I am often annoyed at myself for leaving so many projects half-finished. Sometimes I tend to get down on myself for this, and feel like I could never successfully leave a mark in any expressive field. At times like this, it is comforting to know that William Morris, a man of such accomplishments, also left things unfinished and lived with his unfinished projects and kept them around, moving ahead to accomplish so much.


Anonymous said...

I love his painted furniture so very much. Wonder what the story is behind this piece?

In truth, I can't claim to leave that many jobs unfinished - I tend to have trouble starting them to begin with. So much fabric, so little time.

Grace said...

According to the book, it's theorized that it's based on Mallory's LeMorte D'Artur (I probably slaughtered that, but the book isn't in front of me). But it's all hypothesis. It was pointed out though that all the figures on the left panel are playing music and happy, while the ones on the right panel seem distressed.