British artist Gavin Morton (1867–1954) is perhaps best known for his work as head of the design department for Morton & Co (later Morton Sundour Fabrics Ltd.). The Scotland based textile company, founded by his uncle Alexander Morton, made muslin, lace, tapestry, printed fabrics, and carpeting.
Over time, Morton & Co aligned itself with the rising Arts and Crafts movement in Great Britain. This movement, founded by William Morris, sought to counter the craze for “Orientalist” imports and mass produced goods by encouraging a renewed interest in domestic artisans (using non industrialized working tools), while ensuring they received fair pay and good working conditions.
Although Alexander Morton had started the company as a typical factory, producing traditional goods on power looms, he was intrigued by the texture of a hand knotted pile carpet he saw in London, as well as the writings and work of Morris. Soon he opened workshops in Donegal, Ireland to produce hand knotted carpets.
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Although he worked on a variety of projects for the company, Gavin Morton is perhaps best known as one of the lead designers for this new line of hand-knotted carpets, along with fellow artist and renowned architect C.F.A. Voysey, and later G.K. Robertson.
Their designs have since been acclaimed as some of the finest examples from the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau design movements. They quickly replaced the more “orientalist” design motifs with the flowers and vines of Art Nouveau, as well as Celtic motifs that acknowledge the carpets’ Irish makers.
The famous undulating motifs of Art Nouveau, which allowed for printed textiles with no visible lines, were elegantly recreated in the patterns. These further deviated from more commonplace Turkish carpets with bi-directional patterns, contrasting colors such as orange, deep blue and areas of empty space surrounding delicate motifs.
Throughout his career, Gavin Morton’s designs were exhibited in Dublin and London. They were also published in international magazines, as well as displayed in Morton & Co.’s global showrooms.
Today, the antique rugs and other textiles designed by Morton are considered great works of textile art. as such, they do fetch handsome sums in auctions and are also exhibited at museums and galleries around the world, most notably the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Among those who acknowledge his influence, is the great furniture maker Gustav Stickley. Many of Morton’s iconic rug designs and styles were woven for the famous Liberty & Co.
Morton’s carpets were also purchased by Queen Victoria, Kind Edward, the Prime Minister’s residence, the Governor General of Canada’s residence, and the White House in Washington, D.C.
Needless to say, Gavin Morton had a unique influence. His artistic eye and creative spirit, helped make his arts and carpet designs some of the most desirable in the world.
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View our current collection of Gavin Morton rugs and carpets below: