MORRIS (WILLIAM) and JOHN RUSKIN A series of 4 autograph letters signed by John Ruskin ("J. Ruskin", or "J.R."), and one signed by William Morris ("William Morris"), to Francis J. Weidemann

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Lot 374
MORRIS (WILLIAM) and JOHN RUSKIN
A series of 4 autograph letters signed by John Ruskin ("J. Ruskin", or "J.R."), and one signed by William Morris ("William Morris"), to Francis J. Weidemann

Sold for £ 3,120 (US$ 4,142) inc. premium
MORRIS (WILLIAM) and JOHN RUSKIN
A series of 4 autograph letters signed by John Ruskin ("J. Ruskin", or "J.R."), and one signed by William Morris ("William Morris"), to Francis J. Weidemann, together 11 pages (Ruskin 8 pages, 3 letters from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, the other from Brantwood; Morris, 3 pages, from 26 Queen Street, London), all with the original envelopes; a copy of a letter of introduction written from Ruskin to Morris; together with a series of 15 original watercolour and gouache designs for wallpaper regarding Weidemann (or ?textile) designs by Francis J. Weidemann, each approximately 230 x 230mm.), the letters in all tipped-into a purpose-made full morocco gilt album, the designs loose in purpose-made folder, together in solander box, gilt morocco lettering label on spine, all by Sangorski & Sutcliffe

Footnotes

  • An fascinating series of letters from John Ruskin to Francis J. Weidemann, a young student whom he met whilst at Oxford and recommended to study under William Morris, providing a useful insight into Ruskin's thoughts on design and opinion of Morris. In the first letters (the envelopes dated March 7, and 11, 1875) Ruskin notes "You are very good and obedient, (I greatly like the way you sat down when I asked you - though I didn't mean it). I grudge you to Morris mightily, but must give him, and you, the chance", advises that Weidemann go to the Turner room at Kensington to look at his studies of "his flying dabchick (or duck, or whatever it is) - it will show you how to throw colour lightly yet with precision...", suggests he copy background leaves from paintings by Mantegna and Perugino, and states "I don't call Bologna Italy - its all sub-Italy - black inferno!. Study Venice & Florence only then you're safe...". The third letter encloses his letter of introduction addressed to Morris, and recommends Weidemann, "a young student of decorative art, of whose industry and docility I cannot speak too highly, and possesses, as far as I can judge powers which only need right direction to become very great." In his response Morris invited Weidemann to visit him in his Bloomsbury home. The final Ruskin letter, sent on April 27th, evidently comments on the outcome of the meeting: "All Morris's advice is excellent: but he overrated the difficulty of design - being not himself (?)in intensity a designer - though having every human faculty in some high degree...", urging him to study organic life, "use your morning hours without flurry as Morris and I both tell you. I only forbid for the present tapestry and all imperfect art", and promising to take a walk with him in the National Gallery.

    Weidemann, a cousin of Robert Browning, did eventually study under William Morris and become one of his assistants. That he was a fine designer is evident from the fifteen original watercolour and gouache designs for wallpapers or fabrics included in the lot. Each design, executed in vibrant colours, takes as it's starting point a flower or aspect of nature, and is captioned in ink on the verso. For example: Acanthus Reed; Panelled Daisy; Three Grass Stages; Bracken and Bluebell; Rose Thistle. Against one sample Weidemann notes "This sketch supplied the idea for a wallpaper sold to Messrs. Wylie & Lochead, Glasgow". See colour illustration at page 69.
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