Armchair, 'Sussex', turned wood / rush seat, [designed by Ford Maddox Brown and Dante Gabriel Rosetti], made by Morris & Co, England, 1865-1890
The 'Sussex' armchair, most probably designed by Ford Maddox Brown and Dante Gabriel Rossetti for Morris & Co, c.1880, is significant both for its association with William Morris, a leading 19th century British designer, socialist and thinker; and its modest design, which manifests the values of traditional craftsmanship and labour over machine production upheld by the British Arts and Crafts Movement (1880-1910).
Founded by William Morris, the Arts and Crafts Movement emerged as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution. It rejected mechanical progress and sought to revive the skills and qualities of handcrafted work. As demonstrated with the 'Sussex' armchair, emphasis was placed on plain materials and unfinished surfaces (this armchair is made from black stained beech with a rush seat), manual dexterity (all components, apart from the seat rails, have been turned) and a sense of simple, domestic living.
The 'Sussex' armchair, named after the county in England, was initially produced as a stand-alone design, but later formed part of a range of designs by Morris & Co, along with corner chairs, children's chairs and settees. William Morris so liked the design, he even furnished his own home with the chairs! They were also institutionally used, at the time, in the galleries of the Fitzwilliam Museum and some of the colleges of Cambridge University.
Assistant Curator, Design & Society
The 'Sussex' armchair was manufactured from the late 1840s to 1915.