Arts and Crafts movement

19 Nov
The Oregon Public Library in Oregon, Illinois, U.S.A. is an example of Arts and Crafts in a Carnegie Library. Myers Free Kindergarten building in Auckland, New Zealand. Cowper Rose, Randwick, Sydney, Australia
St Ellero, Burwood, Sydney, Australia Interior of Standen Red House in London.
     
Originating from the teachings of William Morris, John Rushkin, and other late-19th century English Theorists, the Arts & Crafts movement’s emphasis was on “humanizing” design through simple, crafted forms and honest expression of materials.

Common characteristics are:

-carefully crafted details
-use of brick, wood and carved stone
-maturalistic and geometric forms
-picturesque massing

 
 
Style Definition
A movement which developed in the second half of the 19th century, in opposition to industrialization and associated social changes. The idea spread after the Great Exhibition of 1851, which had supposedly shown off in London the best craftsmanship of the day, but it had earlier roots in the emphasis which Jean-Jacques Rousseau had placed on craftsmanship in the 18th century and on the medievalism of Gothic revivalists like Pugin in the early 19th century. It was articulated in the writings of Ruskin, whose belief in the moral qualities of art led him to oppose machine production, and who believed in the ultimate inspiration of nature, rather than the rehashed historicism of the period. It was exemplified by the design work of William Morris, through his firm Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co., established in 1861. He employed artists such as Burne Jones and produced many designs himself, notably for wallpaper, textiles and stained glass, in which natural inspiration and truth to materials are the paramount considerations. The movement also inspired a generation of architects, led by Webb (who designed the Red House for Morris), Shaw, Ashbee and Voysey, who used vernacular architecture and traditional materials without resorting to the overt period style of the Queen Anne Movement.

The Arts and Crafts Movement had a strong socialist streak, seen in Morris’s own writings (e.g. News from Nowhere, 1891) and in the numerous attempts to educate the masses (e.g. Ashbee’s Guild and School of Arts and Crafts established in 1888). But the politics was always tempered by a nostalgia for the Middle Ages with their craftsmanship, guilds and religious endeavour. The movement organized exhibitions from 1888, but by then was already being superseded by the development of Art Nouveau which shared similar ideas but with a more contemporary outlook. However, its ideal lingered and is apparent in Gropius’ Bauhaus manifesto.

As its name implies, the style was concerned with the integration of art into everyday life through the medium of craftsmanship. There is a strong flavour of morality, with stress on the truthful use of materials and the honest expression of function. Arts and Crafts buildings are unpretentious and informal, evoking an atmosphere of comfortable familiarity.
In nineteenth-century England, the moral attitudes to architecture and design preached by A. W. N. Pugin and John Ruskin were put into practice by William Morris, father of the Arts and Crafts movement. Dismayed by the effects of the Industrial Revolution and inspired by Ruskin’s writings on ‘The Nature of Gothic’, Morris tried to put art into a broadly based social context through the reestablishment of handicraft methods reminiscent of a rural, pre-industrial age. C. F. A. Voysey and Philip Webb were important Arts and Crafts architects in England. In the United States, Gustav Stickley promoted the ‘Craftsman’ image in architecture, interior design and furniture.
In Australia, Federation Arts and Crafts architecture exhibits qualities similar to those of the overseas models from which it drew inspiration. Buildings in this style are domestic in scale and make free use of traditional (usually English) vernacular motifs to achieve an unassuming, homely, well-established character. Designers aimed for informality in planning, massing, fenestration and landscaping. The roof is a dominant element, featuring gables (with barges or parapets) and/or hips of medium to steep pitch and prominent eaves. Tall, tapering chimneys, battered wall- buttresses and bay windows are characteristic elements of the style. Pebbledash stucco (roughcast) was commonly used as an exterior wall finish, together with other materials having earthy, ‘natural’ colours and textures. Interiors frequently display timber panelling and sturdy ceiling beams. Touches of Art Nouveau detail are common, both externally and internally.

Quoted from:
“A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Austrlian Architecture; Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present”
RICHARD APPERLY, ROBERT IRVING, PETER REYNOLDS. PHOTOGRAPHS BY SOLOMON MITCHELL.
Angus & Robertson Sydney 1995 ISBN 0207 18562 X
Copyright © 1989 by Richard Apperly, Robert Irving and Peter Reynolds.

 

“Artichoke” wallpaper, by John Henry Dearle for William Morris & Co., ca 1897 (Victoria and Albert Museum).

The Arts and Crafts movement is a major English aesthetic movement occurring in the last years of the 19th century. Inspired by the writings of John Ruskin it was at its height between approximately 1880–1910.

It was a reformist movement which influenced British decorative arts, architecture, cabinet making, crafts, and even the “cottage” garden designs of William Robinson or Gertrude Jekyll. Its best-known practitioners were William Morris, Charles Robert Ashbee, T. J. Cobden Sanderson, Walter Crane, Phoebe Anna Traquair, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Christopher Dresser, Edwin Lutyens, Nelson Dawson and artists in the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

In the United States, it should be noted, the term Arts and Crafts movement is often used to denote the style of interior design that prevailed between the dominant eras of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, or roughly the period from 1910 to 1925. This article does not deal with the American usage of the term.

Origins and key principles
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 repetitive and mundane evils, some of the protagonists of this movement turned entirely away from the use of machines and towards handcraft, which tended to concentrate their productions in the hands of sensitive but well-heeled patrons.

Yet, while the Arts & Crafts movement was in large part a reaction to industrialization, if looked at on the European whole, it was neither anti-industrial nor antimodern. Some of the European factions believed that machines were in fact necessary, but they should only be used to relieve the tedium of mundane, repetitive tasks. At the same time, some Art & Craft leaders felt that objects could also be affordable. The conflict between quality production and ‘demo’ design, and the attempt to reconcile the two, dominated design debate at the turn of the last century.

Those who sought compromise between the efficiency of the machine and the skill of the craftsman thought it a useful endeavour to seek the means through which a true craftsman could master a machine to do his bidding, in opposition to the reality which was much more prevalent during the Industrial Age; humans had become slaves to the industrial machine.

The need to reverse the human subservience to the unquenchable machine was a point that everyone agreed on. Yet the extent to which the machine was ostracized from the process was a point of contention debated by many different factions within the Arts and Crafts movement throughout Europe.

(This conflict was exemplified in the German Arts and Crafts movement, by the clash between two leading figures of the Deutscher Werkbund (DWB), Hermann Muthesius and Henry Van de Velde. Muthesius, also head of design education for German Government, was a champion of standardization. He believed in mass production, in affordable democratic art. Van de Velde, on the other hand, saw mass production as threat to creativity and individuality.)

Though the spontaneous personality of the designer became more central than the historical “style” of a design, certain tendencies stood out: reformist neo-gothic influences, rustic and “cottagey” surfaces, repeating designs, vertical and elongated forms. In order to express the beauty inherent in craft, some products were deliberately left slightly unfinished, resulting in a certain rustic and robust effect. There were also socialist undertones to this movement, in that another primary aim was for craftspeople to derive satisfaction from what they did. This satisfaction, the proponents of this movement felt, was totally denied in the industrialised processes inherent in compartmentalised machine production.

In fact, the proponents of the Arts and Crafts movement were against the principle of a division of labour, which in some cases could be independent of the presence or absence of machines. They were in favour of the idea of the master craftsman, creating all the parts of an item of furniture, for instance, and also taking a part in its assembly and finishing, with some possible help by apprentices. This was in contrast to work environments such as the French Manufactories, where everything was oriented towards the fastest production possible. (For example, one person or team would handle all the legs of a piece of furniture, another all the panels, another assembled the parts and yet another painted and varnished or handled other finishing work, all according to a plan laid out by a furniture designer who would never actually work on the item during its creation.) The Arts and Crafts movement sought to reunite what had been ripped asunder in the nature of human work, having the designer work with his hands at every step of creation. Some of the most famous apostles of the movement, such as Morris, were more than willing to design products for machine production, when this did not involve the wretched division of labour and loss of craft talent, which they denounced. Morris designed numerous carpets for machine production in series.

History of the movement
Red House, Bexleyheath, London (1859), by architect Philip Webb for Morris himself, is a work exemplary of this movement in its early stages. There is a deliberate attempt at expressing surface textures of ordinary materials, such as stone and tiles, with an asymmetrical and quaint building composition. Morris formed the Kelmscott Press and also had a shop where he designed and sold products such as wallpaper, textiles, furniture, etc. Morris’s own ideas emerged from the thinking that had informed Pre-Raphaelitism, especially following the publication of Ruskin’s book The Stones of Venice and Unto this Last, both of which sought to relate the moral and social health of a nation to the qualities of its architecture and designs. The decline of rural handicrafts, corresponding to the rise of industralised society, was a cause for concern for many designers and social reformers, who feared the loss of traditional skills and creativity. For Ruskin, a healthy society depended on skilled and creative workers. Morris and other socialist designers such as Crane and Ashbee looked forward to a future society of free craftspeople. The Aesthetic movement, which emerged at the same period, fed into these ideas. In 1881 the Home Arts and Industries Association was set up by Eglantyne Louisa Jebb in collaboration with Mary Fraser Tytler (later Mary Watts) and others to promote and protect rural handicrafts. A group of reformist architects, followers of Arthur Mackmurdo, later established the Art Workers Guild to promote their vision of the integration of designing and making. Crane was elected as its president.

Influences on later art

Europe
Widely exhibited in Europe, the Arts and Crafts movement’s qualities of simplicity and honest use of materials negating historicism inspired designers like Henry van de Velde and movements such as Art Nouveau, the Dutch De Stijl group, Viennese Secessionstil and eventually the Bauhaus. The movement can be assessed as a prelude to Modernism, where pure forms, stripped of historical associations, would be once again applied to industrial production.

In Russia, Viktor Hartmann, Viktor Vasnetsov and other artists associated with Abramtsevo Colony sought to revive the spirit and quality of medieval Russian decorative arts in the movement quite independent from that flourishing in Great Britain.

The Wiener Werkstätte, founded in 1903 by Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser, played an independent role in the development of Modernism, with its Wiener Werkstätte Style.

United States
In the United States, it spawned complementary and sympathetic American craft movements such as the “mission oak” style furniture embraced by Gustav Stickley, the Roycroft community, the “Prairie School” of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Country Day School movement, the bungalow style of houses popularised by Greene and Greene, and the contemporary studio craft movement. Studio pottery — exemplified by Rookwood pottery, Bernard Leach in England, and Pewabic Pottery in Detroit — as well as the art tiles by Ernest A. Batchelder in Pasadena, California, and idiosyncratic furniture of Charles Rohlfs also demonstrate the clear influence of Arts and Crafts movement. Mission, Prairie and the California Craftsman styles of homebuilding remain tremendously popular in the United States today.

References
Cathers, David M. Furniture of the American Arts and Crafts Movement. The New American Library, Inc., 1981. ISBN 045303974. 
Kaplan, Wendy. “The Art that is Life”: The Arts & Crafts Movement in America, 1875–1920. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1987.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: