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Supervisor: Prof Rosalind Polly Blakesley


Research overview:

Prompted by a growing interest in her life, art and legacy, this doctoral project examines the career and work of May Morris (1862-1938). Foremost a designer and maker of textiles, Morris was a leading figure of the Arts and Crafts movement, who exhibited, published and lectured widely, and achieved international recognition during her lifetime. For much of the twentieth century, however, acknowledgment of her significance and assessment of her contributions suffered. In recent years, this has changed, principally through an increase in publications and public lectures on Morris, and the major exhibition, May Morris: Art & Life, which ran from 2017 to 2019.

Building on the engagement and research these initiatives have generated, this doctoral project addresses Morris’s textiles, designs, making practices and writings. By critically (re)examining these in relation to existing and newly proposed artistic and intellectual contexts, it seeks to understand the complex and multivalent potential that the making of art offered Morris and how we might interpret this today. In doing so, it presents a new account of her career and work, which re-defines her position within Arts and Crafts scholarship and art historical discourses on late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century British art, craft and design.



Thomas is a third-year PhD candidate and the 2022 William Morris Society US Joseph R. Dunlap Memorial Fellow. He completed his BA (Hons) and MA degrees at The Courtauld Institute of Art, graduating with the Director’s Prize for Outstanding MA History of Art Dissertation. His doctoral research is funded by the University of Cambridge Pigott Studentship, and his research has been supported by Kettle’s Yard, the Paul Mellon Centre, and the William Morris Society in the United States.