A talented and versatile Arts & Crafts designer and architect, Philip Speakman Webb was one of the movement's most original designers, establishing an innovative approach to the design of domestic space. After meeting in 1856, Philip Webb began collaborating with William Morris at Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. (later Morris & Co.) in 1861. Webb’s first commission was Red House in 1859, Morris' first home for which Webb is perhaps most well known. On 28 June 2022, our Hints on Household Taste auction featured a selection of fine examples by Webb for Morris & Co.
After designing a similar table for Sir Edward Burne-Jones in the 1850's, the firm later produced several related examples for high-profile commissions. These included Old Swan House, Chelsea, designed by Sir Richard Norman Shaw for the connoisseur Wickham Flower, and Great Tangley Manor in Sussex, where Webb carried out extensions in 1885. A similar walnut version of this table is in the collection at Standen, the Arts and Crafts house Webb designed in 1891, now in the care of the National Trust.
This model was originally designed by Philip Webb circa 1875, and which William Morris had in his study at Kelmscott House, Hammersmith. There is a watercolour by Mary A. Sloane ('May Morris in Tapestry Room at Kelmscott Manor', 1910-15), which depicts William Morris' daughter May editing the twenty-four volumes of Collected Works by William Morris at the Kelmscott table. The picture is held in the William Morris Gallery, Waltham Forest, London. A table of this design can still be found in the Tapestry Room at Kelmscott Manor, Oxfordshire.
The canopy over the central shelves recalls the canopy Philip Webb employed in the settle which he designed for his friend and associate William Morris' Red House, which subsequently moved to Kelmscott Manor. In keeping with Arts & Crafts values this cabinet recalls earlier historic forms, it is devoid of superfluous ornamentation and places an emphasis on the overall form, structure and materials used.
This interesting cabinet demonstrates design elements characteristic of Philip Webb's furniture for Morris & Co. The deep mouldings to the apron frieze, the supported interior shelf, the canted form and the shaped cut-out apron are all found in furniture by Webb for the firm, who continued to produce his designs for furniture well into the 20th century.
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