Arts and Crafts Movement

Friday, 18 January 2019 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Architecture, Design & Products, London
Reading Time:  22 minutes

Philip Webb's Red House in Upton, Bexleyheath, Greater London © Ethan Doyle White/cc-by-sa-3.0

Philip Webb’s Red House in Upton, Bexleyheath, Greater London © Ethan Doyle White/cc-by-sa-3.0

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.

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.”

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.

Happisburgh Manor in St Marys © geograph.org.uk - Evelyn Simak/cc-by-sa-2.0 Harris Lebus sideboard © Citizenarts Port Sunlight buildings © Man vyi Merton Abbey Mills Show House © Man vyi Philip Webb's Red House in Upton, Bexleyheath, Greater London © Ethan Doyle White/cc-by-sa-3.0 Stained glass of The Red House in Bexleyheath © Velela Tiffany Lamp Peacock © Guerinf/cc-by-sa-3.0
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Philip Webb's Red House in Upton, Bexleyheath, Greater London © Ethan Doyle White/cc-by-sa-3.0
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.

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.

Read more on The Arts & Crafts Home, BBC – Arts and Crafts Movement, NationalTrust.org.uk – Red House and Wikipedia Arts and Crafts Movement (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.












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