This article is about the art and design movement. For handicrafts generally, see Handicraft. For other uses, see Arts & Crafts (disambiguation).
The Arts and Crafts movement was an international movement in the decorative and fine arts that began in Britain and flourished in Europe and North America between about 1880 and 1920, emerging in Japan (the Mingei movement) in the 1920s. It stood for traditional craftsmanship using simple forms, and often used medieval, romantic, or folk styles of decoration. It advocated economic and social reform and was essentially anti-industrial. It had a strong influence on the arts in Europe until it was displaced by Modernism in the 1930s, and its influence continued among craft makers, designers, and town planners long afterwards.
The term was first used by T. J. Cobden-Sanderson at a meeting of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society in 1887, although the principles and style on which it was based had been developing in England for at least twenty years. It was inspired by the ideas of architect Augustus Pugin, writer John Ruskin, and designer William Morris.
The movement developed earliest and most fully in the British Isles, and spread across the British Empire and to the rest of Europe and North America. It was largely a reaction against the perceived impoverished state of the decorative arts at the time and the conditions in which they were produced.
Origins and influences
The Arts and Crafts movement emerged from the attempt to reform design and decoration in mid 19th century Britain. It was a reaction against a perceived decline in standards that the reformers associated with machinery and factory production. Their critique was sharpened by the items they saw in the Great Exhibition of 1851, which they considered to be excessively ornate, artificial and ignorant of the qualities of the materials used.
The art historian Nikolaus Pevsner has said that exhibits in the Great Exhibition showed "ignorance of that basic need in creating patterns, the integrity of the surface" and "vulgarity in detail". Design reform began with the organisers of the Exhibition itself, Henry Cole (1808–1882), Owen Jones (1809–1874), Matthew Digby Wyatt (1820–1877) and Richard Redgrave (1804–1888), who deprecated excessive ornament and impractical and badly made things. The organisers were "unanimous in their condemnation of the exhibits." Owen Jones, for example, complained that "the architect, the upholsterer, the paper-stainer, the weaver, the calico-printer, and the potter" produce "in art novelty without beauty, or beauty without intelligence." From these criticisms of the contemporary state of manufactured goods emerged several publications which set out what the writers considered to be the correct principles of design. Richard Redgrave's Supplementary Report on Design (1852) analysed the principles of design and ornament and pleaded for "more logic in the application of decoration." Other works followed in a similar vein: Wyatt's Industrial Arts of the Nineteenth Century (1853), Gottfried Semper's Wissenschaft, Industrie und Kunst ("Science, Industry and Art") (1852), Ralph Wornum's Analysis of Ornament (1856), Redgrave's Manual of Design (1876) and Jones's Grammar of Ornament (1856). The Grammar of Ornament was particularly influential, liberally distributed as a student prize and running into nine reprints by 1910.
Jones declared that "Ornament ... must be secondary to the thing decorated", that there must be "fitness in the ornament to the thing ornamented", and that wallpapers and carpets must not have any patterns "suggestive of anything but a level or plain". Where a fabric or wallpaper in the Great Exhibition might be decorated with a natural motif made to look as real as possible, these writers advocated flat and simplified natural motifs. Redgrave insisted that "style" demanded sound construction before ornamentation, and a proper awareness of the quality of materials used. "Utility must have precedence over ornamentation."
However, the design reformers of the mid 19th century did not go as far as the designers of the Arts and Crafts Movement: they were more concerned with ornamentation than construction, they had an incomplete understanding of methods of manufacture, and they did not criticise industrial methods as such. By contrast, the Arts and Crafts movement was as much a movement of social reform as design reform and its leading practitioners did not separate the two.
A. W. N. Pugin
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Some of the ideas of the movement were anticipated by A.W.N. Pugin (1812–1852), a leader in the Gothic revival in architecture. For example, he, like the Arts and Crafts artists, advocated truth to material, structure and function. Pugin articulated the tendency of social critics to compare the faults of modern society (such as the sprawling growth of cities and the treatment of the poor) unfavorably with the Middle Ages, a tendency that became routine with Ruskin, Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement. His book Contrasts (1836) drew examples of bad modern buildings and town planning in contrast with good medieval examples, and his biographer Rosemary Hill notes that in it he "reached conclusions, almost in passing, about the importance of craftsmaship and tradition in architecture that it would take the rest of the century and the combined efforts of Ruskin and Morris to work out in detail." She describes the spare furnishings he specified for a building in 1841—"rush chairs, oak tables"—as "the Arts and Crafts interior in embryo."
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The Arts and Crafts philosophy derived in large measure from John Ruskin's social criticism, which related the moral and social health of a nation to the qualities of its architecture and to the nature of work. Ruskin (1819–1900) considered the sort of mechanized production and division of labour that had been created in the industrial revolution to be "servile labour" and he thought that a healthy and moral society required independent workers who designed the things they made. His followers favoured craft production over industrial manufacture and were concerned about the loss of traditional skills, but they were arguably more troubled by effects of the factory system than by machinery itself and William Morris's idea of "handicraft" was essentially work without any division of labour rather than work without any sort of machinery.
William Morris (1834–1896), the towering figure in late 19th century design, was the main influence on the Arts and Crafts movement. The aesthetic and social vision of the Arts and Crafts movement derived from ideas he developed in the 1850s with a group of students at the University of Oxford, who combined a love of Romantic literature with a commitment to social reform. By 1855 they had discovered Ruskin and, believing there to be a contrast between the barbarity of contemporary art and the painters preceding Raphael (1483-1530), they formed themselves into the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood to pursue their artistic aims. The medievalism of Mallory's Morte d'Arthur set the standard for their early style. In Edward Burne-Jones' words, they intended to "wage Holy warfare against the age".
Morris began experimenting with various crafts and designing furniture and interiors. He was personally involved in manufacture as well as design, which was to be the hallmark of the Arts and Crafts movement. Ruskin had argued that the separation of the intellectual act of design from the manual act of physical creation was both socially and aesthetically damaging; Morris further developed this idea, insisting that no work should be carried out in his workshops before he had personally mastered the appropriate techniques and materials, arguing that "without dignified, creative human occupation people became disconnected from life".
In 1861 Morris began making furniture and decorative objects commercially, modeling his designs on medieval styles and using bold forms and strong colors. His patterns were based on flora and fauna and his products were inspired by the vernacular or domestic traditions of the British countryside. In order to display the beauty of the materials and the work of the craftsman, some were deliberately left unfinished, creating a rustic appearance. Truth to materials, structure and function became characteristic of the Arts and Crafts movement.
Social and design principles
"Unlike their counterparts in the United States, most Arts and Crafts practitioners in Britain had strong, slightly incoherent, negative feelings about machinery. They thought of 'the craftsman' as free, creative, and working with his hands, 'the machine' as soulless, repetitive, and inhuman. These contrasting images derive in part from John Ruskin's (1819-1900) The Stones of Venice, an architectural history of Venice that contains a powerful denunciation of modern industrialism to which Arts and Crafts designers returned again and again. Distrust for the machine lay behind the many little workshops that turned their backs on the industrial world around 1900, using preindustrial techniques to create what they called 'crafts.'" Alan Crawford, "W. A. S. Benson, Machinery, and the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain"
Critique of industry
William Morris shared Ruskin’s critique of industrial society and at one time or another attacked the modern factory, the use of machinery, the division of labour, capitalism and the loss of traditional craft methods. But his attitude to machinery was inconsistent. He he said at one point that production by machinery was "altogether an evil", but at others he was willing to commission work from manufacturers who were able to meet his standards with the aid of machines; and he said that, in a "true society", where neither luxuries nor cheap trash were made, machinery could be improved and used to reduce the hours of labour. Fiona MacCarthy says that "unlike later zealots like Gandhi, William Morris had no practical objections to the use of machinery per se so long as the machines produced the quality he needed."
Morris insisted that the artist should be a craftsman-designer working by hand and advocated a society of free craftspeople, such as he believed had existed during the Middle Ages. "Because craftsmen took pleasure in their work", he wrote, "the Middle Ages was a period of greatness the art of the common people. ... The treasures in our museums now are only the common utensils used in households of that age, when hundreds of medieval churches—each one a masterpiece—were built by unsophisticated peasants." Medieval art was the model for much Arts and Crafts design and medieval life, literature and building was idealised by the movement.
Morris's followers also had differing views of about machinery and the factory system. C. R. Ashbee, for example, a central figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement, said in 1888, that, "We do not reject the machine, we welcome it. But we would desire to see it mastered." After unsuccessfully pitting his Guild and School of Handicraft guild against modern methods of manufacture, he acknowledged that "Modern civilization rests on machinery", but he continued to criticize the deleterious effects of what he called "mechanism", saying that "the production of certain mechanical commodities is as bad for the national health as is the production of slave-grown cane or child-sweated wares."William Arthur Smith Benson, on the other hand, had no qualms about adapting the Arts and Crafts style to metalwork produced under industrial conditions. (See quotation box.)
Morris and his followers believed the division of labour on which modern industry depended was undesirable, but the extent to which every design should be carried out by the designer was a matter for debate and disagreement. Not all Arts and Crafts artists carried out every stage in the making of goods themselves, and it was only in the twentieth century that that became essential to the definition of craftsmanship. Although Morris was famous for getting hands-on experience himself of many crafts (including weaving, dying, printing, calligraphy and embroidery), he did not regard the separation of designer and executant in his factory as problematic. Walter Crane, a close political associate of Morris’s, took an unsympathetic view of the division of labour on both moral and artistic grounds, and strongly advocated that designing and making should come from the same hand. Lewis Foreman Day, a friend and contemporary of Crane’s, as unstinting as Crane in his admiration of Morris, disagreed strongly with Crane. He thought that the separation of design and execution was not only inevitable in the modern world, but also that only that that sort of specialisation allowed the best in design and the best in making. Few of the founders of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society insisted that the designer should also be the maker. Peter Floud, writing in the 1950s, said that "The founders of the Society ... never executed their own designs, but invariably turned them over to commercial firms." The idea that the designer should be the maker and the maker the designer derived "not from Morris or early Arts and Crafts teaching, but rather from the second-generation elaboration doctrine worked out in the first decade of [the twentieth] century by men such as W. R. Lethaby".
Many of the Arts and Crafts Movement designers were socialists, including Morris, T. J. Cobden Sanderson, Walter Crane, C.R.Ashbee, Philip Webb, Charles Faulkner and A.H.Mackmurdo. In the early 1880s Morris was spending more of his time on socialist propaganda than on designing and making. Ashbee established a community of craftsmen, the Guild of Handicraft, in east London, later moving to Chipping Campden. Those adherents who were not socialists, for example, Alfred Hoare Powell, advocated a more humane and personal relationship between employer and employee. Lewis Foreman Day, a very successful and influential Arts and Crafts designer, was not a socialist either, despite his long friendship with Crane.
Association with other reform movements
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In Britain the movement was associated with dress reform,ruralism, the garden city movement and the folk-song revival. All were linked, in some degree, by the ideal of "the Simple Life". In continental Europe the movement was associated with the preservation of national traditions in building, the applied arts, domestic design and costume.
Morris's designs quickly became popular, attracting interest when his company's work was exhibited at the 1862 International Exhibition in London. Much of Morris & Co's early work was for churches and Morris won important interior design commissions at St James's Palace and the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum). Later his work became popular with the middle and upper classes, despite his wish to create a democratic art, and by the end of the 19th century, Arts and Crafts design in houses and domestic interiors was the dominant style in Britain, copied in products made by conventional industrial methods.
The spread of Arts and Crafts ideas during the late 19th and early 20th centuries resulted in the establishment of many associations and craft communities, although Morris had little to do with them because of his preoccupation with socialism at the time. A hundred and thirty Arts and Crafts organisations were formed in Britain, most between 1895 and 1905.
In 1881, Eglantyne Louisa Jebb, Mary Fraser Tytler and others initiated the Home Arts and Industries Association to encourage the working classes, especially those in rural areas, to take up handicrafts under supervision, not for profit, but in order to provide them with useful occupations and to improve their taste. By 1889 it had 450 classes, 1,000 teachers and 5,000 students.
In 1882, architect A.H.Mackmurdo formed the Century Guild, a partnership of designers including Selwyn Image, Herbert Horne, Clement Heaton and Benjamin Creswick.
In 1884, the Art Workers Guild was initiated by five young architects, William Lethaby, Edward Prior, Ernest Newton, Mervyn Macartney and Gerald C. Horsley, with the goal of bringing together fine and applied arts and raising the status of the latter. It was directed originally by George Blackall Simonds. By 1890 the Guild had 150 members, representing the increasing number of practitioners of the Arts and Crafts style. It still exists.
The London department store Liberty & Co., founded in 1875, was a prominent retailer of goods in the style and of the "artistic dress" favoured by followers of the Arts and Crafts movement.
In 1887 the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, which gave its name to the movement, was formed with Walter Crane as president, holding its first exhibition in the New Gallery, London, in November 1888. It was the first show of contemporary decorative arts in London since the Grosvenor Gallery's Winter Exhibition of 1881.Morris & Co. was well represented in the exhibition with furniture, fabrics, carpets and embroideries. Edward Burne-Jones observed, "here for the first time one can measure a bit the change that has happened in the last twenty years". The society still exists as the Society of Designer Craftsmen.
In 1888, C.R.Ashbee, a major late practitioner of the style in England, founded the Guild and School of Handicraft in the East End of London. The guild was a craft co-operative modelled on the medieval guilds and intended to give working men satisfaction in their craftsmanship. Skilled craftsmen, working on the principles of Ruskin and Morris, were to produce hand-crafted goods and manage a school for apprentices. The idea was greeted with enthusiasm by almost everyone except Morris, who was by now involved with promoting socialism and thought Ashbee's scheme trivial. From 1888 to 1902 the guild prospered, employing about 50 men. In 1902 Ashbee relocated the guild out of London to begin an experimental community in Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds. The guild's work is characterized by plain surfaces of hammered silver, flowing wirework and colored stones in simple settings. Ashbee designed jewellery and silver tableware. The guild flourished at Chipping Camden but did not prosper and was liquidated in 1908. Some craftsmen stayed, contributing to the tradition of modern craftsmanship in the area.
C.F.A. Voysey (1857–1941) was an Arts and Crafts architect who also designed fabrics, tiles, ceramics, furniture and metalwork. His style combined simplicity with sophistication. His wallpapers and textiles, featuring stylised bird and plant forms in bold outlines with flat colors, were used widely.
Morris's thought influenced the distributism of G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.
By the end of the nineteenth century, Arts and Crafts ideals had influenced architecture, painting, sculpture, graphics, illustration, book making and photography, domestic design and the decorative arts, including furniture and woodwork, stained glass, leatherwork, lacemaking, embroidery, rug making and weaving, jewelry and metalwork, enameling and ceramics. By 1910, there was a fashion for "Arts and Crafts" and all things hand-made. There was a proliferation of amateur handicrafts of variable quality and of incompetent imitators who caused the public to regard Arts and Crafts as "something less, instead of more, competent and fit for purpose than an ordinary mass produced article."
The Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society held eleven exhibitions between 1888 and 1916. By the outbreak of war in 1914 it was in decline and faced a crisis. Its 1912 exhibition had been a financial failure. While designers in continental Europe were making innovations in design and alliances with industry through initiatives such as the Deutsche Werkbund and new initiatives were being taken in Britain by the Omega Workshops and the Design in Industries Association, the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, now under the control of an old guard, was withdrawing from commerce and collaboration with manufacturers into purist handwork and what Tania Harrod describes as "decommoditisation" Its rejection of a commercial role has been seen as a turning point in its fortunes. Nikolaus Pevsner in his book Pioneers of Modern Design presents the Arts and Crafts Movement as design radicals who influenced the modern movement, but failed to change and were eventually superseded by it.
The British artist potter Bernard Leach brought to England many ideas he had developed in Japan with the social critic Yanagi Soetsu about the moral and social value of simple crafts; both were enthusiastic readers of Ruskin. Leach was an active propagandist for these ideas, which struck a chord with practitioners of the crafts in the inter-war years, and he expounded them in A Potter's Book, published in 1940, which denounced industrial society in terms as vehement as those of Ruskin and Morris. Thus the Arts and Crafts philosophy was perpetuated among British craft workers in the 1950s and 1960s, long after the demise of the Arts and Crafts movement and at the high tide of Modernism. British Utility furniture of the 1940s also derived from Arts and Crafts principles. One of its main promoters, Gordon Russell, chairman of the Utility Furniture Design Panel, was imbued with Arts and Crafts ideas. He manufactured furniture in the Cotswold Hills, a region of Arts and Crafts furniture-making since Ashbee, and he was a member of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. William Morris's biographer, Fiona MacCarthy, detected the Arts and Crafts philosophy even behind the Festival of Britain (1951), the work of the designer Terence Conran (b. 1931) and the founding of the British Crafts Council in the 1970s.
The movement spread to Ireland, representing an important time for the nation's cultural development, a visual counterpart to the literary revival of the same time and was a publication of Irish nationalism. The Arts and Crafts use of stained glass was popular in Ireland, with Harry Clarke the best-known artist and also with Evie Hone. The architecture of the style is represented by the Honan Chapel (1916) in Cork in the grounds of University College Cork. Other architects practicing in Ireland included Sir Edwin Lutyens (Heywood House in Co. Laois, Lambay Island and the Irish National War Memorial Gardens in Dublin) and Frederick 'Pa' Hicks (Malahide Castle estate buildings and round tower). Irish Celtic motifs were popular with the movement in silvercraft, carpet design, book illustrations and hand-carved furniture.
The beginnings of the Arts and Crafts movement in Scotland were in the stained glass revival of the 1850s, pioneered by James Ballantine (1808–77). His major works included the great west window of Dunfermline Abbey and the scheme for St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh. In Glasgow it was pioneered by Daniel Cottier (1838–91), who had probably studied with Ballantine, and was directly influenced by William Morris, Ford Madox Brown and John Ruskin. His key works included the Baptism of Christ in Paisley Abbey, (c. 1880). His followers included Stephen Adam and his son of the same name. The Glasgow-born designer and theorist Christopher Dresser (1834–1904) was one of the first, and most important, independent designers, a pivotal figure in the Aesthetic Movement and a major contributor to the allied Anglo-Japanese movement. The movement had an "extraordinary flowering" in Scotland where it was represented by the development of the 'Glasgow Style' which was based on the talent of the Glasgow School of Art. Celtic revival took hold here, and motifs such as the Glasgow rose became popularised. Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow School of Art were to influence others worldwide.
In continental Europe, the revival and preservation of national styles was an important motive of Arts and Crafts designers; for example, in Germany, after unification in 1871 under the encouragement of the Bund für Heimatschutz (1897) and the Vereinigte Werkstätten für Kunst im Handwerk founded in 1898 by Karl Schmidt; and in Hungary Károly Kós revived the vernacular style of Transylvanian building. In central Europe, where several diverse nationalities lived under powerful empires (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia), the discovery of the vernacular was associated with the assertion of national pride and the striving for independence, and, whereas for Arts and Crafts practitioners in Britain the ideal style was to be found in the medieval, in central Europe it was sought in remote peasant villages.
Widely exhibited in Europe, the Arts and Crafts style's simplicity inspired designers like Henry van de Velde and styles such as Art Nouveau, the Dutch De Stijl group, Vienna Secession, and eventually the Bauhaus style. Pevsner regarded the style as a prelude to Modernism, which used simple forms without ornamentation.
The earliest Arts and Crafts activity in continental Europe was in Belgium in about 1890, where the English style inspired artists and architects including can de Velde, Gabriel Van Dievoet, Gustave Serrurier-Bovy and a group known as La Libre Esthétique (Free Aesthetic).
Arts and Crafts products were admired in Austria and Germany in the early 20th century, and under their inspiration design moved rapidly forward while it stagnated in Britain. The Wiener Werkstätte, founded in 1903 by Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser, was influenced by the Arts and Crafts principles of the "unity of the arts" and the hand-made. The Deutscher Werkbund (German Association of Craftsmen) was formed in 1907 as an association of artists, architects, designers, and industrialists to improve the global competitiveness of German businesses and became an important element in the development of modern architecture and industrial design through its advocacy of standardized production. However, its leading members, van de Velde and Hermann Muthesius, had conflicting opinions about standardization. Muthesius believed that it was essential were Germany to become a leading nation in trade and culture. Van de Velde, representing a more traditional Arts and Crafts attitude, believed that artists would forever "protest against the imposition of orders or standardization," and that "The artist ... will never, of his own accord, submit to a discipline which imposes on him a canon or a type."
In Finland, an idealistic artists' colony in Helsinki was designed by Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren and Eliel Saarinen, who worked in the National Romantic style, akin to the British Gothic Revival.
In Hungary, under the influence of Ruskin and Morris, a group of artists and architects, including Károly Kós, Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch and Ede Toroczkai Wigand, discovered the folk art and vernacular architecture of Transylvania. Many of Kós's buildings, including those in the Budapest zoo and the Wekerle estate in the same city, show this influence.
In Russia, Viktor Hartmann, Viktor Vasnetsov, Yelena Polenova and other artists associated with Abramtsevo Colony sought to revive the quality of medieval Russian decorative arts quite independently from the movement in Great Britain.
In Iceland, Sölvi Helgason's work shows Arts and Crafts influence.
In the United States, the Arts and Crafts style initiated a variety of attempts to reinterpret European Arts and Crafts ideals for Americans. These included the "Craftsman"-style architecture, furniture, and other decorative arts such as designs promoted by Gustav Stickley in his magazine, The Craftsman and designs produced on the Roycroft campus as publicized in Elbert Hubbard's The Fra. Both men used their magazines as a vehicle to promote the goods produced with the Craftsman workshop in Eastwood, NY and Elbert Hubbard's Roycroft campus in East Aurora, NY. A host of imitators of Stickley's furniture (the designs of which are often mislabelled the "Mission Style") included three companies established by his brothers.
The terms American Craftsman or Craftsman style are often used to denote the style of architecture, interior design, and decorative arts that prevailed between the dominant eras of Art Nouveau and Art Deco in the USA, or approximately the period from 1910 to 1925. The movement was particularly notable for the professional opportunities it opened up for women as artisans, designers and entrepreneurs who founded and ran, or were employed by, such successful enterprises as the Kalo Shops, Rookwood Pottery, and Tiffany Studios. In Canada, the term Arts and Crafts predominates, but Craftsman is also recognized.
While the Europeans tried to recreate the virtuous crafts being replaced by industrialisation, Americans tried to establish a new type of virtue to replace heroic craft production: well-decorated middle-class homes. They claimed that the simple but refined aesthetics of Arts and Crafts decorative arts would ennoble the new experience of industrial consumerism, making individuals more rational and society more harmonious. The American Arts and Crafts movement was the aesthetic counterpart of its contemporary political philosophy, progressivism. Characteristically, when the Arts and Crafts Society began in October 1897 in Chicago, it was at Hull House, one of the first American settlement houses for social reform.
Arts and Crafts ideals disseminated in America through journal and newspaper writing were supplemented by societies that sponsored lectures. The first was organized in Boston in the late 1890s, when a group of influential architects, designers, and educators determined to bring to America the design reforms begun in Britain by William Morris; they met to organize an exhibition of contemporary craft objects. The first meeting was held on January 4, 1897, at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston to organize an exhibition of contemporary crafts. When craftsmen, consumers, and manufacturers realised the aesthetic and technical potential of the applied arts, the process of design reform in Boston started. Present at this meeting were General Charles Loring, Chairman of the Trustees of the MFA; William Sturgis Bigelow and Denman Ross, collectors, writers and MFA trustees; Ross Turner, painter; Sylvester Baxter, art critic for the Boston Transcript; Howard Baker, A.W. Longfellow Jr.; and Ralph Clipson Sturgis, architect.
The first American Arts and Crafts Exhibition began on April 5, 1897, at Copley Hall, Boston featuring more than 1000 objects made by 160 craftsmen, half of whom were women. Some of the advocates of the exhibit were Langford Warren, founder of Harvard's School of Architecture; Mrs. Richard Morris Hunt; Arthur Astor Carey and Edwin Mead, social reformers; and Will H. Bradley, graphic designer. The success of this exhibition resulted in the incorporation of The Society of Arts and Crafts (SAC), on June 28, 1897, with a mandate to "develop and encourage higher standards in the handicrafts." The 21 founders claimed to be interested in more than sales, and emphasized encouragement of artists to produce work with the best quality of workmanship and design. This mandate was soon expanded into a credo, possibly written by the SAC's first president, Charles Eliot Norton, which read:
This Society was incorporated for the purpose of promoting artistic work in all branches of handicraft. It hopes to bring Designers and Workmen into mutually helpful relations, and to encourage workmen to execute designs of their own. It endeavors to stimulate in workmen an appreciation of the dignity and value of good design; to counteract the popular impatience of Law and Form, and the desire for over-ornamentation and specious originality. It will insist upon the necessity of sobriety and restraint, or ordered arrangement, of due regard for the relation between the form of an object and its use, and of harmony and fitness in the decoration put upon it.
Also influential were the Roycroft community initiated by Elbert Hubbard in Buffalo and East Aurora, New York, Joseph Marbella, utopian communities like Byrdcliffe Colony in Woodstock, New York, and Rose Valley, Pennsylvania, developments such as Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, featuring clusters of bungalow and chateau homes built by Herbert J. Hapgood, and the contemporary studio craft style. Studio pottery—exemplified by the Grueby Faience Company, Newcomb Pottery in New Orleans, Marblehead Pottery, Teco pottery, Overbeck and Rookwood pottery and Mary Chase Perry Stratton's Pewabic Pottery in Detroit, as well as the art tiles made by Ernest A. Batchelder in Pasadena, California, and idiosyncratic furniture of Charles Rohlfs all demonstrate the influence of Arts and Crafts.
Architecture and Art
The "Prairie School" of Frank Lloyd Wright, George Washington Maher and other architects in Chicago, the Country Day School movement, the bungalow and ultimate bungalow style of houses popularized by Greene and Greene, Julia Morgan, and Bernard Maybeck are some examples of the American Arts and Crafts and American Craftsman style of architecture. Restored and landmark-protected examples are still present in America, especially in California in Berkeley and Pasadena, and the sections of other towns originally developed during the era and not experiencing post-war urban renewal. Mission Revival, Prairie School, and the 'California bungalow' styles of residential building remain popular in the United States today.
As theoreticians, educators, and prolific artists in mediums from printmaking to pottery and pastel, two of the most influential figures were Arthur Wesley Dow (1857-1922) on the East Coast and Pedro Joseph de Lemos (1882-1954) in California. Dow, who taught at Columbia University and founded the Ipswich Summer School of Art, published in 1899 his landmark Composition, which distilled into a distinctly American approach the essence of Japanese composition, combining into a decorative harmonious amalgam three elements: simplicity of line, “notan” (the balance of light and dark areas), and symmetry of color. His purpose was to create objects that were finely crafted and beautifully rendered. His student de Lemos, who became head of the San Francisco Art Institute, Director of the Stanford University Museum and Art Gallery, and Editor-in-Chief of the School Arts Magazine, expanded and substantially revised Dow’s ideas in over 150 monographs and articles for art schools in the United States and Britain. Among his many unorthodox teachings was his belief that manufactured products could express “the sublime beauty” and that great insight was to be found in the abstract “design forms” of pre-Columbian civilizations.
The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement is under construction in St. Petersburg, Florida, scheduled to open in 2019.
In Japan, Yanagi Sōetsu, creator of the Mingei movement which promoted folk art from the 1920s onwards, was influenced by the writings of Morris and Ruskin. Like the Arts and Crafts movement in Europe, Mingei sought to preserve traditional crafts in the face of modernising industry.
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“The movement … represents in some sense a revolt against the hard mechanical conventional life and its insensibility to beauty (quite another thing to ornament). It is a protest against that so-called industrial progress which produces shoddy wares, the cheapness of which is paid for by the lives of their producers and the degradation of their users. It is a protest against the turning of men into machines, against artificial distinctions in art, and against making the immediate market value, or possibility of profit, the chief test of artistic merit. It also advances the claim of all and each to the common possession of beauty in things common and familiar, and would awaken the sense of this beauty, deadened and depressed as it now too often is, either on the one hand by luxurious superfluities, or on the other by the absence of the commonest necessities and the gnawing anxiety for the means of livelihood; not to speak of the everyday uglinesses to which we have accustomed our eyes, confused by the flood of false taste, or darkened by the hurried life of modern towns in which huge aggregations of humanity exist, equally removed from both art and nature and their kindly and refining influences.”
Walter Crane, “Of The Revival of Design and Handicraft”, in Arts and Crafts Essays, by Members of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, 1893
Many of the leading of the Arts and Crafts movement were trained as architects (e.g. William Morris, A. H. Mackmurdo, C. R. Ashbee, W. R. Lethaby) and it was on building that the movement had its most visible and lasting influence.
Red House, in Bexleyheath, London, designed for Morris in 1859 by architect Philip Webb, exemplifies the early Arts and Crafts style, with its well-proportioned solid forms, wide porches, steep roof, pointed window arches, brick fireplaces and wooden fittings. Webb rejected classical and other revivals of historical styles based on grand buildings, and based his design on British vernacular architecture, expressing the texture of ordinary materials, such as stone and tiles, with an asymmetrical and picturesque building composition.
The London suburb of Bedford Park, built mainly in the 1880s and 1890s, has about 360 Arts and Crafts style houses and was once famous for its Aesthetic residents. Several Almshouses were built in the Arts and Crafts style, for example, Whiteley Village, Surrey, built between 1914 and 1917, with over 280 buildings, and the Dyers Almshouses, Sussex, built between 1939 and 1971. Letchworth Garden City, the first garden city, was inspired by Arts and Crafts ideals. The first houses were designed by Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin in the vernacular style popularized by the movement and the town became associated with high-mindedness and simple living. The sandal-making workshop set up by Edward Carpenter moved from Yorkshire to Letchworth Garden City and George Orwell's jibe about "every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England" going to a socialist conference in Letchworth has become famous.
- Red House – Bexleyheath, Kent – 1859
- YHA Beer – Youth Hostel – Beer, East Devon
- Wightwick Manor – Wolverhampton, England – 1887–93
- Standen – East Grinstead, England – 1894
- Swedenborgian Church – San Francisco, California – 1895
- Blackwell – Lake District, England – 1898
- Derwent House – Chislehurst, Kent – 1899
- Stoneywell – Ulverscroft, Leicestershire – 1899
- West Court, Fishery Road, Maidenhead – 1899
- The Arts & Crafts Church (Long Street Methodist Church and School) – Manchester, England – 1900
- Spade House – Sandgate, Kent – 1900
- Caledonian Estate – Islington, London – 1900–1907
- Horniman Museum – Forest Hill, London – 1901
- Shaw's Corner – Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire – 1902
- Pierre P. Ferry House – Seattle, Washington – 1903–1906
- Winterbourne House – Birmingham, England – 1904
- Marston House – San Diego, California – 1905
- Edgar Wood Centre – Manchester, England – 1905
- Ramsay House – Ellensburg, Washington – 1905
- Debenham House – Holland Park, London – 1905-07
- Robert R. Blacker House – Pasadena, California – 1907
The Arts and Crafts movement emerged during the late Victorian period in England, the most industrialized country in the world at that time. Anxieties about industrial life fueled a positive revaluation of handcraftsmanship and precapitalist forms of culture and society. Arts and Crafts designers sought to improve standards of decorative design, believed to have been debased by mechanization, and to create environments in which beautiful and fine workmanship governed. The Arts and Crafts movement did not promote a particular style, but it did advocate reform as part of its philosophy and instigated a critique of industrial labor; as modern machines replaced workers, Arts and Crafts proponents called for an end to the division of labor and advanced the designer as craftsman.
The British movement derived its philosophical underpinnings from two important sources: first, the designer A. W. N. Pugin (1812–1852), whose early writings promoting the Gothic Revival presaged English apprehension about industrialization, and second, theorist and art critic John Ruskin (1819–1900), who advocated medieval architecture as a model for honest craftsmanship and quality materials. Ruskin’s persuasive rhetoric influenced the movement’s figurehead (and ardent socialist) William Morris (1834–1896), who believed that industrialization alienated labor and created a dehumanizing distance between the designer and manufacturer. Morris strove to unite all the arts within the decoration of the home, emphasizing nature and simplicity of form.
The American Arts and Crafts movement was inextricably linked to the British movement and closely aligned with the work of William Morris and the second generation of architect-designers, including Charles Robert Ashbee (1863–1942), who toured the United States, and Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857–1941), whose work was known through important publications such as The Studio. British ideals were disseminated in America through journal and newspaper writing, as well as through societies that sponsored lectures and programs. The U.S. movement was multicentered, with societies forming nationwide. Boston, historically linked to English culture, was the first city to feature a Society of Arts and Crafts, founded in June 1897. Chicago’s Arts and Crafts Society began at Hull House, one of the first American settlement houses for social reform, in October 1897. Numerous societies followed in cities such as Minneapolis and New York, as well as rural towns, including Deerfield, Massachusetts.
Unlike in England, the undercurrent of socialism of the Arts and Crafts movement in the United States did not spread much beyond the formation of a few Utopian communities. Rose Valley was one of these artistic and social experiments. William Lightfoot Price (1861–1916), a Philadelphia architect, founded Rose Valley in 1901 near Moylan, Pennsylvania. The Rose Valley shops, like other Arts and Crafts communities, were committed to producing artistic handicraft, which included furnishings (1991.145), pottery, metalwork, and bookbinding. The Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts Colony was another Utopian Arts and Crafts community. Outside of Woodstock, New York, Englishman Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead (1854–1929) and his wife Jane Byrd McCall Whitehead (1861–1955) founded Byrdcliffe, which was completed and operating by 1903. There craftspeople worked in various media, including woodwork, pottery, textiles, and metalwork. In harmony with the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement, Byrdcliffe furniture (1991.311.1) is a study in rectilinearity, simply treated materials, and minimal decoration.
In urban centers, socialist experiments were undertaken on a community level, frequently in the form of educating young women. Ideas of craftwork and simplicity manifested themselves in decorative work, including the metalwork and pottery of the Arts and Crafts movement. Schools and training programs taught quality design, a cornerstone of the Arts and Crafts movement. In Boston, the Saturday Evening Girls Club, established in 1899 as a reading group for immigrant girls, founded the Paul Revere Pottery, which began producing pottery (2000.31) in 1908 and offered the girls the ability to earn good wages within the community. Newcomb Pottery was formed in New Orleans in the winter of 1894–95 under the auspices of the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, an educational institution for women. Using local Southern flora and fauna as inspiration, the female designers at Newcomb made pottery (1983.26) and later also produced metalwork and textiles (2004.334).
In addition to pottery, women fashioned jewelry in the Arts and Crafts mode. Stones were chosen for their inherent artistic qualities, resulting in jewelry that promoted truth to materials. Florence Koehler (1861–1944), a charter member of the Chicago Arts and Crafts Society, taught china painting, jewelry, and metalsmithing. After studying jewelry and enamelwork in London, she referenced historic design, especially Renaissance sources (52.43.1; 52.43.2; 52.43.3). Marie Zimmermann (1879–1972) began her artistic career as a jewelry designer and later expanded her metalsmithing to include ornamental garden and home objects. An idiosyncratic designer, Zimmermann studied foreign cultures for inspiration, including Egypt (2005.464), Greece, and China.
Without a singular philosophy, diversity persevered within the Arts and Crafts movement as a mixture of individuals worked in diverse locations. There were regional differences due to the geographical distribution from the East Coast, to the Midwest, to California. Craftsmen used a wide range of source material to produce handwrought objects. Arthur J. Stone (1847–1938), a dedicated member of the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts, produced silver objects that were conservative in design. An Englishman who emigrated to the United States, Stone opened his silver shop in Gardner, Massachusetts, where he initially executed all pieces himself. When the business expanded, he hired additional craftsmen to make individual works (1990.49). There were also creative designers with unique vision, such as Charles Rohlfs (1853–1936), who worked in Buffalo, New York. Rohlfs eschewed industrial production methods, preferring to craft individual pieces of furniture (1985.261) utilizing a myriad of foreign sources, including Moorish, Chinese, and Scandinavian design. Gustav Stickley (1858–1942), founder of The United Crafts (later known as the Craftsman Workshops), was a proselytizer of the craftsman ideal. Emulating William Morris’s production through guild manufacture of his furniture, Stickley believed that mass-produced furniture was poorly constructed and overly complicated in design. Stickley set out to improve American taste through “craftsman” or “mission” furniture with designs governed by honest construction, simple lines, and quality material (1976.389.1). He also published the highly influential The Craftsman (1901–16), a beacon for the American Arts and Crafts movement.
Publications, including The Craftsman, House Beautiful, and Ladies Home Journal, disseminated ideas about design and interiors. The ideal home that emerged had an open-planned interior shaped by a color palette that reflected the natural environment. Articles and illustrations presented decorating suggestions, including the use of colors, type of furniture, and decorative accessories, such as rugs and pottery. Period sources embraced Grueby Pottery for its innovative interpretation of nature and craftsmanship. Founded by William Grueby (1867–1925), the pottery was known for naturally shaped vessels with matte green glaze (69.91.2). In addition to pottery, lighting was also an important element that contributed to the ideal Arts and Crafts interior. The copper electric table lamp (1989.129) was the archetypal object crafted by the Dirk Van Erp Studio. Additionally, a Native American undercurrent developed during the Arts and Crafts movement, as evidenced by fashionable Indian-style baskets and textiles featured in Arts and Crafts exhibitions and publications. Many collected baskets to display in their Indian corners, which may have inspired Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933) to design a hanging shade in an Indian basket motif (69.150).
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) shaped a new way of living through his completely designed environments, encompassing architecture and all elements of interiors. He ushered in a style of architecture that became known as the Prairie School, characterized by low-pitched roofs, open interiors, and horizontal lines that reflected the prairie landscape. This architecture, which utilized natural materials such as wood, clay, and stone, sparked a revolutionary shift in the American interior (1972.60.1). Wright’s “organic” architecture was indebted to nature. However, plain surfaces with minimal decorative embellishments were suited to incorporating the machine, resulting in furniture with intense rectilinearity and natural surfaces. In addition to Wright, popular Prairie School architects William Gray Purcell (1880–1965) and George Grant Elmslie (1871–1952) directed offices in Minneapolis and Chicago. Purcell, Feick and Elmslie (as the firm was known between 1910 and 1913 with the addition of George Feick Jr. [1881–1945]) remodeled the J. G. Cross House in Minneapolis in 1911 (1972.20.2). The firm specialized in residences with artistic interiors (especially for a middle-class clientele, although they certainly worked for wealthy patrons as well) using organic decorative elements. Like Wright and Purcell, Feick and Elmslie, Charles Sumner Greene (1869–1957) and Henry Mather Greene (1870–1954), California architect-designers of the period, were interested in domestic architecture incorporating the interior as a total work of art. The brothers Greene initially worked in all the popular revival styles, but after examining English and American design periodicals and Charles Greene’s formative trip abroad, their style shifted by the early 1900s. They fashioned a distinctive style, heavily influenced by Asian design, that reached its zenith with the bungalow, the quintessential Arts and Crafts architectural form, characterized by broad overhanging eaves, articulated woodwork, and an open plan. For the Blacker House (1907) in Pasadena, Greene and Greene used Japanese design to meticulously craft elements in their comprehensive schemes, inside and out (1986.445; 1992.127).
The rise of urban centers and the inevitability of technology presaged the end of the Arts and Crafts movement. The search for nature and an idealist medieval era was no longer a valid approach to living. By the 1920s, machine-age modernity and the pursuit of a national identity had captured the attention of designers and consumers, bringing an end to the handcrafted nature of the Arts and Crafts movement in America.