“The soldiers Morris had sketched were now resurrected in bronze. His vision of Tommies standing in the rain, draped in waterproof sheets, was transformed by his wife into four striding soldiers, flanking a crusader knight.” Lachlan Goudie, The Story of Scottish Art (Thames & Hudson, 2020)
Alice and Morris Meredith Williams met, in 1902, while studying in Paris. He was an illustrator and painter, she was a designer and sculptor. Alice (1877-1934) had been a prize-winning student at Liverpool School of Architecture and Applied Art. Four years younger, Morris (1881-1973) had enrolled at the Slade School of Art at fourteen.
They married in 1906 and settled in Edinburgh, where Morris had a part-time job, teaching drawing at Fettes College. He also illustrated children’s books, while Alice sold designs for stained glass windows, to makers in Glasgow and London and made small-scale pieces for domestic settings. From the beginning of their life together, they supported each other’s creative practice. While she drafted illustrations and sat for Morris, he (the son of a vicar) could advise on the detail of her window designs. They both regularly exhibited work at the Royal Scottish Academy, the Royal Academy and the Walker Art Gallery.
During the First World War, Morris spent three years as a junior army officer in France. Alice relocated to Oxfordshire and helped out on a farm, but commissions were few and far between. Morris filled sketchbooks, recording life and death in and behind the lines. Alice designed a memorial window for Morris’s Battalion (the 17th Welsh) and, in 1918, was invited by the Women’s Work Sub Committee of the Imperial War Museum to make a series of panoramic models illustrating women’s wartime roles.
The demand for memorials kept both artists busy throughout the 1920s and they frequently collaborated, marrying Morris’s draughtsmanship and military experience with Alice’s exceptional modelling skills. The Spirit of the Crusaders (above), for Paisley’s war memorial, is one example.