William Morris was born in Walthamstow, Essex, on 24 March 1834. The son of a wealthy businessman, he enjoyed a privileged childhood before attending Marlborough and Exeter College, Oxford.
After leaving Oxford, Morris briefly worked for G. E. Street, the Gothic Revival architect, but he soon left, having determined to become a painter. His admiration for the Pre-Raphaelites led him to be introduced to Dante Gabriel Rossetti whose influence can be seen on Morris's only surviving painting La Belle Iseult.
In the 1860s Morris decided to pursue decorative arts. His career as a designer began when he decorated the Red House, Bexleyheath, which had been built for him by Philip Webb. The success of this venture led to the formation of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. in 1861. The 'Firm' (later renamed Morris & Co) was particularly well-known for its stained glass, examples of which can be seen in churches throughout Britain. Morris produced some 150 designs which are often characterized by their delightful foliage patterns.
Morris entered national politics in 1876, and stayed involved for many years to follow. In 1890 Morris founded the Kelmscott Press in premises near his last home at Kelmscott House in Hammersmith (now the headquarters of the William Morris Society). Morris designed three typefaces for the Press: Golden, Chaucer, and Troy. These were inspired respectively by fifteenth-century Italian and German typography. In all, sixty-six volumes were printed by the Kelmscott Press, the most impressive of which was its magnificent edition of Chaucer which was published in 1896. Morris died at Kelmscott House on 3 October 1896.