Talwin Morris

Talwin Morris was a prolific book designer and decorative artist working in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly known for his Glasgow Style furniture, metalwork and book designs. He was born 14 June 1865 in Winchester, England to Thomas Shewell Morris (1832-1877) and Harriet Chick (d.1865 in childbirth). He died 29 March 1911 in Bowling, Scotland.

Originally intended to follow a theological career, he attended Lancing College in West Sussex before moving to the care of his aunt Emily Morris (1829-1916) in Reading, Berkshire upon his father's death. Between 1882 and 1885 he was articled to the firm of his architect uncle Joseph Morris (1836-1913), winning a prize in 1885 from the Berkshire Archaeological and Architectural Society. Following his apprenticeship, he obtained work in London between 1885 and 1890 with architect James Martin Brooks.

From 1891 he took up post as sub art-editor under M. H. Spielmann for Black and White, a weekly magazine published by Cassell, designing many of its decorative initials and headpieces. On 21 May 1892 he married his second cousin Alice Marsh (1861-1955), who went on to enjoy her own highly successful career as an illustrator of children's books under the name Alice Talwin Morris. His occupation on the marriage certificate is listed as 'clerk'. They lived at 1 Field Court, Gray's Inn, London, a short walk from the offices of Black and White on Bouverie Street.

Responding to an advertisement for an Art Director for publishers Blackie and Son, he moved to Glasgow in May 1893 where he soon made the acquaintance of the artists and designers associated with the Glasgow School of Art. Although he never attended the School, Morris soon became friends with Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his contemporaries, and his own work quickly began to incorporate Glasgow Style motifs.

In July 1893 he and Alice purchased Dunglass Castle and began to design its interiors. They also bought and commissioned pieces from Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh and Frances Macdonald McNair for the house. Bookplates designed by Talwin and Alice at that time are generally thought to reflect the circumstances of their new home and life together. The house was sold in July 1899 to the parents of his friends Margaret and Frances Macdonald, and the Morrisses moved to Torwood in Bowling.

From 5 October-5 December 1896 he exhibited three book cover designs at the fifth exhibition of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society at the New Gallery, London. He also produced metalwork, jewellery and furniture, which he exhibited at the 1902 Exhibition of Modern British Furniture at the National Museum of Industrial Art in Budapest. Also in 1902, his work was selected for exhibition alongside those of his contemporaries at the influential Prima Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte Decorativa Moderna held in Turin, at which he sold several pieces.

In 1902 also he introduced Mackintosh to his employer Walter Blackie, which led to Mackintosh receiving the commission to design Blackie's home, Hill House, Helensburgh. In 1910 he designed the memorial of his employers the Blackie Family in Glasgow Necropolis.

Talwin Morris

Talwin Morris


Morris himself became hugely influential in Victorian book design by moving away from the popular narrative bindings of the time to a more modern Art Nouveau approach where line, curve and decoration are used to entice the reader. At Blackie and Son his output was prolific, producing many designs that could be printed in different colourways across series such as the Red Letter Library and Library of Famous Books. He also designed books for Morison Brothers of Glasgow, Cassell, J. G. Cotta of Stuttgart, Mudie's Select Library, and from 1898 the Blackie subsidiary Gresham. Though many of his book designs are unsigned, some feature his 'signature' of a single dash followed by a further two dashes (his reversed initials MT in morse code). During his tenure, Morris also commissioned book designs by designers such as Ethel Larcombe and Silver Studio.

Talwin Morris



Morris retired through ill-health in 1909 and died from a cardiac embolism on 29 March 1911 at just 45 years old. His body lies in Dumbarton Cemetery, marked by a gravestone designed by his friend Charles Rennie Mackintosh at the behest of his widow Alice. The inscription reads "Love is more great than we conceive / and death is the keeper of unknown redemptions".

Talwin Morris

In 1946 his widow Alice presented examples of his architectural drawings, interior designs and sketchbooks of Blackie motifs to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Much of his design work for Blackie was sold at Sotheby's, London in June 1989 in the sale of the Blackie archives. A grille and stained-glass window for the Blackie headquarters in Stanhope Street, Glasgow (demolished in the 1960s) was sold the following month at Christie's, Glasgow. Posthumous exhibitions of his work were held at the William Morris Gallery from 23 August-2 October 1983, National Art Library from June–July 1990, and at Blackwell from 26 April-11 July 2005. His work can be seen in many library and museum collections, both in the United Kingdom and internationally.

2017 History of Graphic Design

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