Morris, William Bright (1844-1912)

Morris, William Bright (1844-1912)

British artist William Bright Morris produced a wide-ranging array of portraits, landscapes, and genre scenes throughout his long career. Being able to apply himself to multiple subjects and scenes ensured he achieved a loyal following, exhibiting multiple times at the Royal Academy in London.

Morris’ landscapes capture nature with a Constable-like realism. The rosy hues of a dusky sky inflect verdant foliage and crystalline water, casting scenes in a hazy, sleepy state. His male portraits capture the sitters with a dignity and poise very much in vogue during the 19th-century.

Morris was much praised for his works, which were called ‘attractive both in subject and in treatment.’ Whilst Morris was able to apply himself to different subjects, it was in his scenes of patios, of the space caught betwixt human dwelling and nature, that he garnered the most praise.

Morris was ‘the par excellence the painter of the patio,’ critics enthused. ‘He understands the value of every accidental charm.’ Such scenes were most likely influenced by his travels in Europe, to Italy and Spain. They no doubt appealed to those who wanted a slice of the continent for themselves.

Morris’ effusive use of colour, casting the sun’s rays across baked stones and trees bathing in the brightness, could transport the viewer visually.

Morris honed his abilities at the Manchester School of Art. Such an institution was set up to make artistic education more accessible and to increase the cultural acclaim of the city of Manchester itself. Morris was tutored by the acclaimed artist William Jabez Muckley (1829-1905). His works depicting nature show a heightened realism, the influence of which can most certainly be seen in Morris’ work. Muckley also wrote manuals on the practice of art, so there is no doubt Morris received a top-rate education.

That he was able to take such learnings and apply them in his own manner, however, is all down to his abilities and talent. Morris was an active and respected member of the Manchester artistic scene. He was awarded the Watts Prize for his work from the Royal Manchester Institution, set up to encourage culture in the city. He was also a member of the Brasenose Club, so named for the street where they met. This club was interested in fostering connections between the learned men of Manchester in the arts and sciences.

Indeed, whilst Morris understood the importance and prestige behind exhibiting in London, he was also keen to promote the reputation of his city as a place of budding artistic endeavour and innovation.

Many of his works are now held in the Manchester and Salford art galleries.

1844

Born in Salford.

1869-1900

Exhibited at the Royal Academy.

1878

Married Beatrice Mary Leigh Hunt.

1879

Awarded the Watts Prize from the Royal Manchester Institution.

1912

Died.

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