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.
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Joe Rosson: Cherry dining room set made by less famous Stickley brothersKnoxville News Sentinel, December 20th
to go into all the details of the five brothers' careers in making furniture, but it is said that both Gustav Stickley and Elbert Hubbard visited England separately and came back to the United States greatly influenced by the English Arts and...Read more
Council votes to raise speed limit on 287Fort Worth Star Telegram, December 19th
City officials have high hope for the project and its Craftsman-style design, reminiscent of homes built in the first half of the 1900s, with prominent covered porches with large columns and influences of the arts and crafts movement, Sudbury said. The...Read more
Questions and Artists: Gail and Thomas FrankePeninsula Pulse, December 18th
It was inspired by the simple geometric designs of the Arts and Crafts Movement, Stickley furniture and Rennie Mackintosh. I would have to say the other clocks I have done were conceived at the lumberyard. The “Danish Modern” clock uses a beautiful...Read more
Great British Gardens: Hestercombe - An Iconic Lutyens Lanscape in SomersetAnglotopia.net, December 18th
She knew William Morris and like Lutyens had been absorbed into Romanticism and the Arts and Crafts Movement. In gardening she was strongly influenced by William Robinson, who had broken with the 19th century use of tender 'bedding plants', such as ...Read more
Six Women Who Broke New GroundBU Today, November 30th
“Proponents of the Arts and Crafts movement integrated the fine and decorative arts, thereby permitting women greater recognition amongst artists,” notes show curator Caroline Riley (CAS'04, GRS'16), the Jan and Warren Adelson Fellow in American Art in ...Read more
WeWork leases six floors in downtown LA's Fine Arts BuildingLos Angeles Times, November 26th
In the lobby is a vast assortment of tiles by Pasadena artist Ernest A. Batchelder, a leading figure of the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century, and a mural by popular theater muralist Anthony Heinsbergen. Sorgente specializes in...Read more
A Gorgeous iPad Game Inspired By The Arts and Crafts MovementCo.Design, October 31st
Last week, the Victoria & Albert Museum released "Strawberry Thief," an iPad app based on the textiles of 19th-century British Arts and Crafts movement designer William Morris. Sophia George, the museum's first game designer-in-residence, studied one...Read more
Plans unfolding for huge new art museum in downtown St. PetersburgTampabay.com, June 27th
The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement would rise on a downtown St. Petersburg site with a multimillion-dollar permanent collection in a four-story, 90,000-square-foot building designed at a cost of more than $35 million by Alfonso...Read more