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The Arts and Crafts movement

"Artichoke" wallpaper, by John Henry Dearle for William Morris & Co., ca 1897 (Victoria and Albert Museum)
Image sourced here.


The Arts and Crafts Movement is the name given to a reformist movement at first inspired by the writings of John Ruskin that was at its height ca 1880-1910. The movement influenced British decorative arts, architecture, furniture design, crafts and even the 'cottage' garden designs of William Robinson or Gertrude Jekyll. Its main publicists were William Morris, Charles Robert Ashbee and Walter Crane. Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and artists in the Pre-Raphaelite movement. The Arts and Crafts movement was part of the major English aesthetic movement of the last years of the 19th century.

The Arts and Crafts Movement began primarily as a search for authentic and meaningful styles for the 19th century and as a reaction to the eclectic historicism of the Victorian era and to 'soulless' machine-made production aided by the Industrial Revolution. Considering the machine to be the root cause of all evils, the protagonists of this movement turned completely away from the use of machines and towards handcraft, which tended to concentrate their productions in the hands of sensitive but well-heeled patrons. Though the spontaneous personality of the designer became more central than the historical 'style' of a design, certain tendencies stood out: reformist Gothic influences, rustic and 'cottagey' surfaces, repeating designs, vertical and elongated forms. In order to express the beauty inherent in craft, some of the products were deliberately left slightly unfinished, resulting in a certain rustic and robust effect. There were also sentimental Socialist undertones to this movement in that another primary aim was for people to derive satisfaction from what they do. This satisfaction, the proponents of this movement felt, was totally denied in compartmentalised machine production. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arts_and_Crafts_movement [2004]

Arts & Crafts Movement:  An English movement that originated in 1888 at a London exhibition organized by the Art Worker's Guild.  William Morris is generally conceded to be its primary inspirational leader.  In spite of its somewhat romantic idealism and backward-looking nostalgia, the Arts and Crafts movement embodied hints of the directions that Modernism was to take in its emphasis on functional design and honest use of materials and production techniques.  These ideas were manifested in the development of art nouveau in Europe, and the Deutscher Werkbund movement in Germany, and so, through Walter Gropius into the modernism of the 1920s and 30s.  An excellent book on the topic is Gillian Naylor's 1971 book, "The Arts and Crafts Movement". --Dictionary of 20th Century Design" by John Pile

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