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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Arts and Crafts Era
Source: Google News
Art Turning Left at the Tate Liverpool: An ambitious but problematic ...World Socialist Web Site, December 12th
The Arts and Crafts movement attempted to overcome the division of labour in modern class society with techniques harking back to mediaeval craftworking. On display are textiles by William Morris (1834-1896), and the “Workers' Union” banner and Child's ...Read more
AIA salutes architect Julia Morgan with 2014 Gold MedalSan Francisco Chronicle, December 12th
By contrast, the former Berkeley church from 1910 now named the Julia Morgan Theatre is a rustic wood landmark of the Arts and Crafts movement. Her building that houses the Berkeley City Club from 1930 is gray stucco with an urban Gothic feel. She also ...Read more
Setting goals is key to contract work in the heritage industryHerald Series, December 12th
Creaking floorboards and ancient attics hold no fears for Sophie Slade. The arts and heritage consultant spent years working alone in a period house-turned-museum, once home to a leading figure in the arts and crafts movement. She said: “As the only ...Read more
In the Potato PatchLondon Review of Books (subscription), December 11th
The very odd, foreign-unto-themselves Englishness of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the Arts and Crafts movement might be another, as manifested in the love of colour and clearness, craft, plant forms and the Romantic re-enchantment of nature: the ...Read more
National Gallery of Canada's new show: an ambitious Canadian epicThe Globe and Mail, December 10th
to 136,000 by 1911), the young country's tastemakers and vision-shapers looked to Paris, London, New York, Chicago, Vienna, the English Arts and Crafts Movement, the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition, the City Beautiful Movement and Art Nouveau for ...Read more
St. Louis Art Museum to buy $825000 Frank Lloyd Wright chandelierSTLtoday.com, December 10th
He was an influential member of the Prairie School, the Midwest's “greatest contribution” to the American Arts and Crafts movement, and became an international figure “widely published and emulated,” according to the museum's acquisition paperwork...Read more
'Fired Earth, Woven Bamboo' at the Museum of Fine ArtsBoston Globe, December 7th
Widely regarded as Japan's most important ceramic artist of the 20th century, Tomimoto studied in London before the First World War, and was influenced there by the Arts and Crafts movement. The insights and ambitions he brought back to Japan — above ...Read more
Burberry Prorsum Pre-Fall 2014: Arts and Crafts for the English SetFashionista, November 27th
The collection draws inspiration from the Arts and Crafts movement in the late 19th century, both aesthetically and philosophically — decorative, William Morris-style patterning is a central motif. And many key fabrics are British-made, a nod to the...Read more