Sunday, January 30, 2011

Arts and Crafts movement

The Arts and Crafts Movement was an international design movement that originated in England] and flourished between 1880 and 1910, continuing its influence up to the 1930s. Instigated by the artist and writer William Morris (1834–1896) in the 1860s and inspired by the writings of John Ruskin (1819–1900), it had its earliest and fullest development in the British Isles but spread to Europe and North America as a reaction against the impoverished state of the decorative arts and the conditions under which they were produced.
The movement advocated truth to materials and traditional craftsmanship using simple forms and often medieval, romantic or folk styles of decoration. It also proposed economic and social reform and has been seen as essentially anti-industrial.
The central figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement was William Morris (1834–1896). His ideas emerged from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, of which he had been a part, and from his reading of Ruskin. In 1861 Morris and his friends founded a company, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., which, under the supervision of the partners, designed and made decorative objects for the home, including wallpaper, textiles, furniture and stained glass. Later it was re-formed as Morris & Co. In 1890 Morris set up the Kelmscott Press, for which he designed a typeface based on Nicolas Jenson's letter forms of the fifteenth century.This printed fine and de-luxe editions of contemporary and historical English literature.
Red House, Bexleyheath, London (1859), designed for Morris by architect Philip Webb, exemplifies the early Arts and Crafts style, with its well-proportioned solid forms, deep porches, steep roof, pointed window arches, brick fireplaces and wooden fittings. Webb rejected the grand classical style, found inspiration in British vernacular architecture and attempted to express the texture of ordinary materials, such as stone and tiles, with an asymmetrical and quaint building composition.
Morris's ideas spread in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and gave rise to many associations and craft communities, although Morris himself was not involved in them because of his preoccupation with socialism. A hundred and thirty Arts and Crafts organizations were formed in Britain, most of them between 1895 and 1905.
In 1881, Eglantyne Louisa Jebb, Mary Fraser Tytler and others set up the Home Arts and Industries Association to promote and protect rural handicrafts. In 1882, the 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 formed by five young architects, William Lethaby, Edward Prior, Ernest Newton, Mervyn Macartney and Gerald C. Horsley, with the aim of integrating design and making. It was originally led by George Blackall Simonds. By 1890 the Guild had 150 members, reflecting the growing number of practitioners of the Arts and Crafts. It still exists. At the same time the Arts and Craft aesthetic was copied by many designers of decorative products made by conventional industrial methods. The London department store Liberty & Co., founded in 1875, was a prominent retailer of goods in the style.
In 1887 the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society 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. were 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 figure in the later years of the Arts and Crafts Movement in England, set up the Guild and School of Handicraft in the East End of London. The Guild was a sort of craft co-operative modelled on the medieval guilds and intended to give working men the satisfactions of craftsmanship. Skilled craftsmen, working on the principles of Ruskin and Morris, were to produce hand-crafted goods and run a school for young apprentices. The idea was greeted with enthusiasm by almost everyone except Morris himself, who was by now involved in promoting socialism and thought Ashbee's scheme trivial. From 1888 to 1902 it prospered, employing about fifty men. In 1902 Ashbee moved the Guild out of London to found 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. At Chipping Campden it flourished creatively, but did not prosper and went into liquidation in 1908. Some of the craftsmen stayed, contributing to the tradition of modern craftsmanship in the area.
Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857–1941) was an Arts and Crafts architect, also designing 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 widely used. Curiously, he was not a craftsman in any of the materials for which he designed.
Morris's ideas were taken up by the New Education movement in the late 1880s, which incorporated handicraft work in schools such as Abbotsholme (1889) and
Bedales (1892), and his influence has been seen in the social experiments of Dartington Hall in the mid twentieth century and in the formation of the Crafts Council in 1973. It also had an influence on distributism. Morris & Co. traded until 1940. Its designs were bought out by Sanderson and Co. and some are still in production.
The movement also spread to Ireland, representing a key moment its the nation's cultural development, a visual counterpart to the literary revival of the same time and was a voice of Irish nationalism. It also had a "extraordinary flowering" in Scotland where it was represented by the development of the 'Glasgow Style' focused on the talent of the Glasgow School of Art.
In the United States, 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, or roughly the period from 1910 to 1925.
In Canada, the term Arts and Crafts predominates, but the term Craftsman is also recognized.
While the Europeans tried to recreate the virtuous world of craft labor that was being destroyed by industrialization, the Americans tried to establish a new source of virtue to replace heroic craft production: the tasteful middle-class home. They thought 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. In short, the American Arts and Crafts Movement was the aesthetic counterpart of its contemporary political movement, Progressivism. Characteristically, when in Chicago the Arts and Crafts Society began in October 1897, it was at Hull House, one of the first American settlement houses for social reform.
In the United States, the Arts and Crafts Movement spawned a wide 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 the designs promoted by Gustav Stickley in his magazine, The Craftsman. A host of imitators of Stickley's furniture (the designs of which are often mislabelled the "Mission Style") included three companies formed by his brothers
The earliest activity in continental Europe was in Belgium around 1890 where the English movement inspired artists and architects such as Gabriel Van Dievoet, Gustave Serrurier-Bovy, Henry Van de Velde and a group of avant-garde artists called La Libre Esthétique. Following the unification of Germany in 1871, the Arts and Crafts Movement also took on a strong nationalist theme encouraged by the Bund für Heimatschutz (1897) and the Vereinigte Werkstatten für Kunst im Handwerk, founded in 1898 by Karl Schmidt.
In Austria, the movement found a home in Vienna, inspired by an exhibitions of the works of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Charles Robert Ashbee. Other examples coloured by Folk Art and, again, nationalism arose in central Europe, including the Hungarian area of the Habsburg Empire and in Scandinavia, such as in Finland which was at that time under Russian domination. In Helsinki, an idealistic artists' colony was designed by Gesellis, Lindgren and Saarinen.
The Arts and Crafts Movement started as a search for authentic design and decoration and a reaction against the styles that had developed out of machine-production.
Arts and Crafts objects were simple in form, without superfluous decoration, often showing the way they were put together. They followed the idea of "truth to material", preserving and emphasizing the qualities of the materials used. They often had patterns inspired by British flora and fauna and drew on the vernacular, or domestic, traditions of the British countryside. Several designer-makers set up workshops in rural areas and revived old techniques. They were influenced by the Gothic Revival (1830–1880) and were interested in all things medieval, using bold forms and strong colors based on medieval designs. They believed in the moral purpose of art. Truth to material, structure and function had also been advocated by A.W.N. Pugin (1812–1852), a leading exponent of the Gothic Revival.
The Arts and Crafts style was in part a reaction against the style of many of the things shown in the Great Exhibition of 1851, which were ornate, artificial and ignored 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). Jones, for example, 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 have no patterns "suggestive of anything but a level or plain". These ideas were taken up by William Morris. Where a fabric or wallpaper in the Great Exhibition might be decorated in a natural motif made to look as real as possible, a William Morris wallpaper, like the Artichoke design illustrated above, would use a flat and simplified natural motif. In order to express the beauty inherent in craft, some products were deliberately left slightly unfinished, resulting in a certain rustic and robust effect. 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.
The Arts and Crafts movement was influenced by Ruskin's social criticism, which sought to relate the moral and social health of a nation to the qualities of its architecture and design. Ruskin thought the machine was at the root of many social ills and that a healthy society depended on skilled and creative workers. Like Ruskin, Arts and Crafts artists tended to oppose the division of labor and to prefer craft production, in which the whole item was made and assembled by an individual or small group. They were concerned about the decline of rural handicrafts, which accompanied the rise of industry, and they regretted the loss of traditional skills and creativity.
Whereas Cole, Jones and Wyatt had accepted machine production, Morris wedded design criticism to social criticism, insisting that the artist should be a craftsman-designer.,
Morris and others, for example, Walter Crane and C.R.Ashbee (1863–1942), looked forward to a society of free craftspeople, which they believed had existed in the Middle Ages. "Because craftsmen took pleasure in their work", Morris wrote, "the Middle Ages was a period of greatness in the art of the common people. ... The treasures in our museums now are only the common utensils used in households of that age, when hundreds of medieval churches - each one a masterpiece - were built by unsophisticated peasants."
There was some disagreement as to whether the machine should be rejected completely and opinions changed. Morris was not entirely consistent. He thought production by machinery was "altogether an evil", but when he could find manufacturers willing to work to his own exacting standards, he would get them to make his designs. He said that, in a "true society", where neither luxuries nor cheap trash were made, machinery could be improved and used to reduce the hours of labour. Ashbee, in some respects, started off even more "medievalist" than Morris. At the time of his Guild of Handicraft, founded in 1888, he said, "We do not reject the machine, we welcome it. But we would desire to see it mastered." But after twenty years of pitting his Guild and School of Handicraft guild against modern methods of manufacture, he acknowledged that "Modern civilization rests on machinery." In Germany, Hermann Muthesius and Henry Van de Velde, leading figures in the Deutscher Werkbund (DWB), held opposing views. Muthesius, who was head of design education for the German Government, championed mass production, standardisation and an affordable, democratic art; Van de Velde thought mass production threatened creativity and individuality.
The movement was associated with socialist ideas in the persons of Morris, Crane and Ashbee. Morris eventually spent more of his time on socialist propaganda than on designing and making. Ashbee set up a utopian community of craftsmen.

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