This exhibition highlights the lives led by the women of William Morris’s social circle alongside portrait photographs of them from our collection. In the nineteenth century individuals might only be photographed a few times in their lives so many photographers specifically designed images to capture the essential character of their sitters.
William Morris’s mother, the stately Emma Morris, is seen leaning on an ornate urn while his industrious sister, Isabella Gilmore, embroiders in her deaconess uniform. Images of Jane Morris, captured as a gentle mother or a languid muse, throw light on the varied aspects of her personality.
However, portrait photographs of women could also shade parts of their lives from view. Simple seated portraits of Rosalind Howard reveal nothing of her radical politics, where a male sitter in her position may have been captured at a writing desk or next to a collection of political books.