Emery Walker’s House and The William Morris Society are holding an online talk on objects in their Islamic collections and how they sit within the wider narrative of Islamic art and its influence on British Arts & Crafts.
Engraver and photographer Emery Walker (1851-1933), close friend of William Morris (1834-96) and a Master of The Art Workers’ Guild, travelled to Spain and Morocco, countries with a rich Islamic visual heritage stretching back hundreds of years. They both took an avid interest in Islamic typographical forms, poetry and craftsmanship, to the extent that Morris was known to investigate how things were made by taking objects apart - apparently, he even did this at the V&A storeroom, which was not strictly allowed!
The collections and archives at Emery Walker’s House, 7 Hammersmith Terrace, W6, have revealed how some of Walker’s contemporaries led to them collecting objects related to the Islamic faith.
Walker and Morris enthusiastically bought items decorated with traditional Islamic geometric, arabesque and calligraphic designs. However, the playwright George Bernard Shaw seems more circumspect; in a letter to Morris he wryly observed, “Walker has just paid 3 ½ francs for a three-spouted brass thing supposed to be a lamp, but really a sort of candle-snuff incense burner which would stink him out of Hammersmith Terrace if he attempted to use it”.
Two intriguing pieces in the Emery Walker’s House collection are a camel saddle which has recently been conserved and a tiny, leather bound Qur’an, to be worn by soldiers when abroad, complete with its own miniature magnifying glass. Moroccan ceramics are prominent in the conservatory which features a colourful collection from Fes, displaying distinctive patterns and polychrome coloured glazes.
The live, interactive talk complements The William Morris Society’s current online exhibition A Place in Pattern, which includes Emery Walker’s possessions. Prebook via Emerywalker.org.uk. Emery Walker’s House has also produced a FREE education pack on the Islamic collection here: www.emerywalker.org.uk/education-packs