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 from 1910-1912. 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. Bachelder 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    

Original Roycroft Hammered Copper Vase 9 5/8 In. Tall 3 5/8 In. Diam. - No ResAntique Arts & Crafts Weighted Cast Iron Slag Glass Working Desk/table Lamp YqzFine Early Liberty & Co Tudric Whiplash Vase 029 By Archibald KnoxGustav Stickley Mission Oak Arts & Crafts #603 Tabouret Table - Double SignedLarge Antique Classic Arts & Crafts Gilded Frame & Elk Oil Painting, NrExtremely Fine Liberty & Co Tudric Pewter Tray By Archibald Knox 0311Phoenix Reverse/obverse Painted Lamp-handel Tiffany Art Glass Slag Arts Crafts Christopher Dresser Arts & Crafts Brass Kordofan Liberty Co Candle Chamber StickSuperb Arts & Crafts Liberty & Co Tudric Vase By Archibald Knox 0226Antique Stickley Bros Arts & Crafts Hammered Copper Pitcher W/ Applied Handle Roycroft Hammered Copper Handled Bowl Arts & CraftsOld Jauchem Of San Francisco Arts & Crafts Hammered Copper W/ Bronze Leaf VaseSterling Silver Arts & Crafts Chicago Silver Hand Wrought Hammered Water PitcherFabulous Antique Arts & Crafts Art Nouveau Leaded Glass Lamp Shade Marbled GreenAntique Shreve Arts & Crafts Hammered Sterling Silver Coin Bank 100 GramsVan Briggle Faience Tile California Arts/craft Vg-cond Antique Hand Hammered Copper Wall Candle Sconces Roycroft Batchelder Faience Tile California Arts/craft Ex-cond Rare Newlyn Copper Crumb Tray Fish Seaweed Stamped Arts And Crafts Cornish Roseville Mostique Art Pottery Jardiniere Planter Arts & Crafts Floral Motif NrAntique Miniature Wardle Pottery Arts & Crafts Tubelined Jug - Beauty Is TruthAntique Arts & Crafts Weighted Cast Iron Slag Glass Working Desk/table Lamp YqzRookwood Matte Blue Arts And Crafts Production VaseAntique Early-20thc, Gilbert El Paso, Mission Oak, Arts & Crafts Mantle ClockVtg Arts & Crafts Reticulated Filigree Multifaceted Jeweled Candle Lamp Shade 3"Large Slag Glass Panel Lamp Handel Tiffany Era Nice Liberty & Co Cymric Ladies Silver Hand Mirror By Archibald Knox 1904Burley Winter Arts And Crafts Art Pottery Open Mouth Frog *rare*W A S Benson Copper And Brass CandlestickAntique Signed Japanese Ceremonial Hammered Copper Teapot W/ Original Wood BoxAntique Signed "miller" Bent Slag Glass Table Lamp. B&h, Handel, Era. C. 1910's.Antique Harry L. Dixon Arts & Crafts Hand Hammered Copper 8 1/2" Vase !!!Antique Arts & Crafts Geometric Prairie School Pottery Umbrella Stand Holder YqzBronze Arts And Crafts Roycroft & Steuben Bronze Table Lamp Arts & Crafts Was Benson Copper & Brass Leaf Form Lamp Light Fitting - StampedArts&crafts,art Nouveau Banker Emeralite Etched Glass LampRare Early 0351 ~ Tudric For Liberty & Co~ Teapot & Jug ~ C1900 ~ Archibald KnoxMotawi Art Tile Bellflower Dard Hunter 4" X 8" Arts And CraftsArts Crafts Mission Oak Limpert Prairie Stickley EraArts & Crafts Theodor Olsen Norwegian Silver Viking Boat Open Salt Cellar Antique Newcomb College Copper Letter Holder, New Orleans, Louisiana, Circa 1918Antique Arts & Crafts Era Brass Barley Twist Old Fireplace Surround Fire FenderStunning Jugendstil Secessionist Tea SetVintage Arts & Crafts Fulper Multicolor Glazed Pottery VaseArts And Crafts Pottery Jar: Zark? Walrath? Volkmar?Antique Arts & Crafts Mission Carved Wood Figural Folk Art Wall Clock ShelfVintage Hand Embroidered Tablecloth= Beautiful Arts & Crafts Style EmbroideryRare Sterling Silver Box 320g+ Of Silver Hm 1956 Central School Of Arts & CraftsGorgeous Arts And Crafts Vase By Door Pottery Signed Scott Draves Nr Nice Liberty & Co Cymric Ladies Silver Hair Brush By Archibald Knox 1903Arts & Crafts Mission Era Copper Heintz Candle Holder Rare Vintage Old AntiqueKalo Shop Arts & Crafts Sterling Silver Hammered Very Long Handled SpoonGlasgow School George Logan Keeling & Co Tulip Part Dinner ServiceUnique Hand Hammered Roycroft Stickley Arts & Crafts Vintage Copper TrayAntique Kalo Sterling Silver Fork & Spoon Set With Anchor Hand Hammered Wrought E.t.c. Fish Arts & Crafts Copper Brass Shaft Vase Tioga Pennsylvania HammeredRose Cabat Feelie Arts & Crafts Studio Pottery Lavendar Mint ConditionLarge 10" Clewell Pottery Copper Clad Vase Great Patina Arts & Crafts Era BronzeVintage Burley Winter Pottery American Arts & Crafts Arts And Crafts William Hutton & Sons Ltd Sterling Silver Cigarette Case (1902)