Grayson Perry & William Morris

One of my favourite things about ‘The vanity of Small Differences’ tapestries are Perry’s incredible attention to detail. He includes objects, furniture, clothing and pattern, all of which are purposefully symbolic of the location, class and taste of Tim throughout his life.

In Grayson Perry’s third tapestry ‘Expulsion from Number 8 Eden Close’ he has included a patterned wallpaper originally designed by William Morris.


This was a very specific choice Perry made. The wallpaper appears in his three part documentary ‘All in the best possible taste’. A ‘middle class’ woman has this in her home, and she was extremely proud of it.


The original name of this wallpaper sample is ‘Willow Bough’, 210. William Morris designed this pattern in 1887. It was printed by Jeffery & Co. for Morris & Co. Block Printed in distemper colours on paper, 68.5×53.0cm. Currently in the V&A collection.

‘Many of Morris’s wallpaper designs were based on plant forms which he studied at first hand. Some of his patterns, […] were drawn from plants in his own gardens. Others – such as ‘Willow Bough’ – were inspired by wild flowers and trees which he had seen on country walks. In 1881 he gave a lecture entitled ‘Some Hints on Pattern Designing’ in which he argued that the ideal pattern should have ‘unmistakable suggestions of gardens and fields.’ 

‘The willow was one of Morris’s favourite motifs and he used it in several of his designs for wallpaper and for textiles. Sometimes he used a small-scale pattern of simplified willow leaves as a background to other motifs, as in ‘Lily’ (1873) and ‘Powdered’ (1874). Also in 1874 he designed ‘Willow’, a simple stylised representation of willow branches on a dark ground. ‘Willow Bough’ is a more naturalistic version of this earlier pattern.’ (V&A ‘Willow Bough’)

In the ‘William Morris’ book published in association with the V&A collection, there is an extract by May Morris (his daughter), regarding Morris’s inspiration for ‘Willow Bough’ (1936)

‘We were walking one day by our little stream that runs into the Thames, and my Father pointed out the detail and variety in the leaf forms, and soon afterwards this paper was done, a keenly-observed rendering of our willows that has endowed many a London living-room.’ (p.220-221)

(Staff, A.M. (1996) William Morris: [published to coincide with the exhibition William Morris 1834 – 1896, held at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 9 may – 1 September 1996]. Edited by Linda Parry. London: Philip Wilson Publishers in association with The Victoria and Albert Museum.)

Author: Crisiant Williams

I am a Fine Art student, studying at Cardiff School of Art and Design.

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