The Arts and Crafts movement that swept the United States and Great Britain from roughly 1880 to 1920 was a response to the industrialization of the late 19th century. It was a call on the part of thinkers, poets, artists, and designers to return to a handmade aesthetic, in which craftsmanship was paramount, design was nature-inspired , and construction methods were straightforward, simple, and undisguised.

English art critic John Ruskin had actually articulated the movement’s founding principles several decades earlier. He considered the prevailing Victorian aesthetic decadent and argued for working conditions that considered the happiness of craftsmen. Pattern designer William Morris put Ruskin’s theories into practice when he established Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. in 1861 to create everything from furniture to wallpaper to fabrics to tapestries.

Another craftsman to put the ideals of Arts and Crafts into action was Charles Robert Ashbee, who established his Guild of Handicraft in 1888 in the slums of London’s East End. The goal was to produce furniture, metalware, and jewelry in an atmosphere of fair wages, good working conditions, and cooperation.

Most British artists of the day did not take the movement’s social side that far. Instead, they contented themselves to producing furniture, ceramics, metalwork, and jewelry that hued to the visual principles of the movement, which got its formal name of Arts and Crafts in 1888.

Liberty & Co. in London brought the movement to the masses with chairs, plant stands, bookcases, and buffets, mostly in oak and mahogany. Individual designers of the day included William De Morgan, whose earthenware vases often suggested Persian influences.

Scotsman Charles Rennie Mackintosh, also considered a practitioner of Art Nouveau (which ran concurrently with the Arts and Crafts period), was another leader. From his Glasgow workshop, he produced handsome desks and other pieces of furniture. His high-backed chairs, especially the ones with trellis backs, are considered his signature.

Robert “Mouseman” Thompson arrived on the scene a little later. His charming gimmick was to adorn a carved mouse on the side of every piece of furniture he made...

In the United States, the Arts and Crafts movement was warmly embraced. Gustav Stickley published a highly influential magazine called The Craftsman from 1901 to 1916. Through his Craftsman Workshops in Syracuse, New York, he also produced furniture and metalwork.

Two of Stickley’s brothers, John George and Albert, established their own firm, Stickley Bros. Co., in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1891. After John George left to start yet another Stickley company with yet another brother (L. & J. G. Stickley in Fayetteville, New York with brother Leopold), Albert carried on at Stickley Bros., eventually labeling his pieces with a tag that read "Quaint Furniture."

Leopold and John George produced pieces for one of the 20th century's greatest architects, Frank Lloyd Wright. Today Wright is more closely associated with what we now call the Prairie School, a type of architecture that emphasized horizontal lines and eschewed ornamentation. But at the turn of the 20th century, he was considered one of the leading practitioners of Arts and Crafts. Importantly, Leopold and John George were not above using mechanical techniques to produce their pieces. Thus, they embraced the aesthetic of Arts and Crafts if not its social and philosophical underpinnings.

Louis Comfort Tiffany was perhaps even more famous than Stickley, although like Macintosh, his style straddled Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau. Some of the finest examples of the former are his lamps with ceramic bases by Grueby Faience Company of Massachusetts.

Speaking of ceramics, the oldest pottery in the United States, Fulper Pottery Company, also became a proponent of Arts and Crafts with its 1909 Vasecraft line. Rookwood Pottery was a breeding ground for numerous Arts and Crafts ceramists — at one time or another, Artus Van Briggle, Matthew A. Daly William P. MacDonald, Albert Valentien, and John D. Wareham were all on staff.

More difficult to categorize was George Ohr, the so-called "Mad Potter of Biloxi, Mississippi," whose deformed and pinched vases fairly drip with candy-colored glazes. Newcomb College pottery from New Orleans went the other way, promoting simply-shaped vases and plates, usually with floral decorations in soft, pastel glazes.

Regions developed their own specialties. New York was the home of Roycroft, which excelled in copper objects for the home, handmade books, and fine wooden furniture. In Northern California, Arequipa Pottery of Fairfax imported future Fiesta visionary Frederick H. Rhead to design its pieces. Dirk Van Erp was another San Francisco Bay Area artisan of renown: His metal vases featured his trademark "warty" surface produced by hand-hammering.

In Southern California, Pasadena was the center for Arts and Crafts. In 1908, architects Charles Sumner and Henry Matthew Greene designed what many consider to be the movement’s architectural masterpiece for David and Mary Gamble. A year later, tilemaker Ernest T. Batchelder established a school devoted to the movement.

Meanwhile, in Chicago and Boston, jewelry in the Arts and Crafts style was very popular. The Kalo Shop opened in Chicago in 1900. And in Boston, Frank Gardner Hale and Edward E. Oakes were among that city’s leading jewelry designers.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Modernism

Modernism

This archived overview produced by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts offers thumbnail sketches of the design moveme… [read review or visit site]

Chicago Silver

Chicago Silver

Paul Somerson's incredible reference on handwrought metalwork from the American Arts and Crafts movement of the ear… [read review or visit site]

1910 Metal

1910 Metal

A detailed tribute to the lesser-known artistic metalwork craftsmen of the Arts and Crafts movement. In addition t… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

2 Antique Tulip Slag Glass & Brass Arts & Crafts Ceiling Hanging Pendant LightsAntique Late 19th Cent Arts & Crafts Movement Hand Beaten Copper & Abalone BoxSuperb Arts Crafts Nouveau Chess Set Secessionist Art Deco Solid Cast Metal 1910Stunning Arts Crafts Enamel Sterling Silver Porcelain Fruit Knife Fork Set B & FArts And Crafts Carved Oak Mirror,19th Century, Rose Hips & Shell Edwin RidgewayFantastic Arts & Crafts Copper And Steel Clock DialArts & Crafts Forest Graft Guild Copper Love Letter Mail HolderAntique Majolica Jardiniere Deer Planter Art Pottery Thomas Forester C1881 LargeArt Deco Incised Antique American Art Pottery Flora Vase C. 1940s Van Briggle NrRoycroft Hammered Copper Inkwell & Cover In Great ConditionStickley Limbert Library TableRare Liberty & Co Tudric Inkwell & Liner Archibald Knox 0164 Rookwood Art Pottery Flowing Relief Iris Arts Crafts 1901 Buffalo Expo LabelVtg Roseville Futura Tourmaline 10" Tall Floor Vase Rings Arts & Crafts Pottery Antique Arts & Crafts Signed Morecambe Hec Copper Bowl Fish Design Scarce Dr Christopher Dresser Designed Silver Plated Ebony Handle Dish Ash TrayAntique Copper Water Can By Benham & Froud After Design By Christopher Dresser Arts & Crafts Hand Wrought Metal Antique Dip Pen Desktop Writing CalligraphyArchibald Knox Tudric Clock Model 0370Arts And Crafts Copper Charger Lovely Piece Of Liberty & Co Tudric Pewter Bowl By Archibald Knox 0277Early Rookwood Art Pottery **arts And Crafts** Design Bowl Rookwood 1922 Vase #2141 Purple Glaze Arts And Crafts ExcAntique Arts & Crafts Silver Pl French Buckle Piel Freres Dog Crown Fleur De LeyVintage Weller Vase Raised Floral Daisy Pastel Matte Glaze Arts Crafts PotteryArts & Crafts Mission Style 19th C Pair (2) Burl Wood Antique Candle Holders YqzAntique Handmade Arts & Crafts Pottery Gargoyle Mythological Creature SculptureTudric Arts And Crafts Pewter Centre Bowl/piece 01340Antique Arts & Crafts Scottish Silver Celtic St Columba Iona Ship Cufflinks Arts Crafts Moorcroft Pomegranate Cup Chalice Footed Pottery Vase EnglandVintage Arts & Crafts Copper Humidor Hammered Tree Bark TextureStunning Tudric Pewter Tea Glass From Liberty & Co By Archibald Knox 0358Antique~1st. Art Mark~niloak~art Pottery~mission~ozark~arts & Crafts~4.5"~vaseHarvey Ellis Sideboard, By Stickley Audi 2006American Antique Leaded Glass Boudoir Lamp..handel Duffner Unique EraArts & Crafts Antique Grueby Blue Oatmeal Mottled Glaze Large Pottery Vase YqzAntique Charles Eaton Arts Crafts Nouveau California Santa Barbara Copper LampNo Reserve!! Stickley Desk And Leather Swivel Chair 100% Authentic Mission OakVintage Solid Sterling Silver Salad Fork & Spoon, Kalo Arts & Crafts Style, 223gRare! Tlingit Hammered Copper Potlatch Ladle Spoon Whirling Logs (swastika)Rare Antique Art Deco 9-panel Mutual Sunset Mesh Lamp Shade W/ NudesAntique Wall Sconce Lincoln Cast Aluminum Arts & Crafts Glass Inset Old Church Vintage Mission Style Executive/bankers Desk "tiger Oak" W/safe Drawer "rare" Small Antique Early 20th Century Portrait Beautiful Woman Oil Painting FramedAntique Victorian Arts Crafts Scroll Arm Bridge Floor Lamp Carnival Glass ShadeVintage Rookwood Arts Crafts Vase Semi Matte Green 1920, Style 2088, 5 1/2" TallFine Pair Arts & Crafts Hammered Sterling Silver Pepper Pots Casters LapagliaAntique Handel Arts And Crafts Piano Table Desk Lamp 6010 Mosserine DamagedArts And Crafts Carved Oak Panel 19th Century Seed Pods Edwin Ridgeway FantasticArts And Crafts Carved Oak Panel 19th Century Seed Pods Edwin Ridgeway FantasticArts & Crafts Roycroft Hand Hammered Copper Sword Letter Opener W/ Roycroft LogoAntique Signed Silvercrest Bronze Sterling Overlay Small Vase Arts & Crafts 1912Van Briggle Tile With Tulip Decoration 6 1/8" Arts Crafts Tile Vintage Mixed Silverplate Flatware Lot *arts/crafts/resale/altered Art*15+poundsVintage Maxfield Parrish Framed Fine Art Print Air Castles Whimsical Early 1900sAntique Quartersawn Oak Arts Crafts Oak Original Finish Trash Flower Basket Wow!Vintage Or Antique Sandel Art Nouveau Arts & Crafts Octagon Wire Mesh Lamp ShadeRoseville Mostique 12" Arts & Crafts Gardenware VaseAntique Vtg Bronze Iron * Gothic Arts Crafts Nouveau Door Knocker *architectural Antique Copper Outdoor Porch Sconce Light Pebble Glass Arts Crafts Vintage