In 1928 James Morton (the artist's father) founded the Edinburgh Weavers as a research unit to discover how textiles could be produced in keeping with developments in contemporary architecture. In 1930, for economic reasons, the workshop merged with Morton Sundour's main weaving factory in Carlisle, but retained its individual identity which continued through to when Alistair Morton was appointed Artistic Director in 1932. In October 1937 Morton launched the Constructivist Fabrics range in New Bond Street with designs by Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Eileen Holding, Winifred Dacre (Nicholson) and Ashley Havinden. Morton, in his introduction to the collection said 'In some respects they may be before their time. There may be relatively few buildings yet that can suitably use them. But we are confident that they are the type of buildings and fabrics that the present generation wants and their production will have been justified if they have helped to develop a genuine contemporary style of interior decoration, keeping its place in the living culture of today.' (see Exhibition Catalogue, Alistair Morton and Edinburgh Weavers, Scottish National Gallery of Art, Edinburgh, 1978, p. 12). The importance of the Edinburgh Weavers within 1930s interior design is witnessed in the substantial entries that it received in Herbert Read's Art and Industry, published in 1934 and Nikolaus Pevsner's An Enquiry into Industrial Art in England, published in 1937.
Alistair Morton, the avant-garde textile producer, is well documented, however Morton, the artist, is less well known. Living in Carlisle, he became life-long friends with Ben and Winifred Nicholson in the early thirties, becoming a substantial benefactor to them during the infancy years of abstract constructivism. He started to paint in 1936, contributing to Circle, 'International Survey of Constructivist Art', London, 1936, edited by Ben Nicholson and Naum Gabo and exhibited at the Minto House Exhibition of Modern Art in May 1937. Nicholson wrote 'The designs I made for Edinburgh Weavers were entirely brought about by him (Alistair Morton)' (ibid., p. 11) but he also personally wrote to Morton in 1940 about his paintings saying 'I expect the new oil abstracts are very good. It is the sustained tension in these more serious works that is really satisfying'. (ibid., p. 22). Barbara Hepworth wrote to Morton about his use of black 'I like the ones with black and primary colours side by side - very virile and exciting balance'. (ibid., p. 23).
Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth were without doubt great influences on Morton as an artist, however, the use of form and colour in this collection of paintings and drawings show how, as an abstract constructivist, Morton, far from being an imitator, stands distinct and unique, rightly gaining the respect both publicly and privately of these two great artists.