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Arts-and-Crafts

Arts-and-Crafts. Widely influential late-C19 English movement that attempted to re-establish the skills of craftsmanship threatened by mass-production and industrialization. Whilst the medieval craft-guilds were revered as ideals, the movement had its origins in the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–78), who proposed that manual skills should be acquired by everybody, no matter from what social class, but owed its immediate impetus to the polemical publications and widespread influence of Pugin and Ruskin. The last founded the Guild of St George in 1871 to promote the transition from theory to practice, but the most important personality associated with the Arts-and-Crafts movement was William Morris, who sought to revive medieval standards and methods of making artefacts while holding truth to materials, constructional methods, and function to be the essence of design. Learning the problems and solutions of providing designs for objects in his own living-accommodation, Morris set up a company in 1861 capable of undertaking any species of decoration, from pictures to a consideration of the smallest work in which artistic beauty could be incorporated. Morris, Marshall, Faulkner, & Co, with which Ford Madox Brown (1821–93), Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–82), Edward Burne-Jones (1833–98), and Philip Webb were closely associated, embraced medieval craftsmanship as the ideal, opposed mass-production, and encouraged design and decoration intricately allied to the properties of materials and the logical methods of construction, drawing on traditional and vernacular precedents. The movement gave rise to the Century Guild (founded by Mackmurdo in 1882), the Art-Workers' Guild (1884), the Guild of Handicraft (founded by Ashbee in 1888), and the Arts-and-Crafts Exhibition Society (1888) which promoted Arts-and-Crafts ideals. Soon the movement was taken up on the Continent, notably in Austria-Hungary (where the Sezession and the Wiener Werkstätte were two of its most obvious offspring), Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, and Scandinavia (where it is still influential at the beginning of C20). Other key figures were Walter Crane (1845–1915), W. R. Lethaby (who had an enormous influence on education, was appointed Principal of the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London in 1896, and was the mentor of the Barnsley brothers and Ernest Gimson), and E. S. Prior.

The chief legacy of the movement to architecture was the appreciation of vernacular buildings leading to elements derived from them being widely used in the Domestic Revival (which grew out of the Gothic Revival and aspects of the Picturesque). Important developments in housing such as at Bedford Park, Chiswick (from the 1870s), Bournville, near Birmingham, Warwicks. (from the 1890s), Letchworth, Herts. (from 1903), and Port Sunlight, Ches. (from the 1880s), all employed themes drawn from vernacular architecture and set the agenda for domestic architecture in Britain until 1939. So admired was English domestic architecture that a major study of it by Hermann Muthesius was published as Das Englische Haus (The English House—1904/5), and regular articles also appeared in architectural journals as well as in the influential art journal The Studio (which strongly supported the Arts-and-Crafts movement as a whole). Two American disciples of Morris, Elbert Hubbard (1856–1915) and Gustav Stickley (1857–1942), helped to promote the movement in the USA.

Finally, the movement was in the vanguard of recording, studying, and preserving old buildings, and argued for the careful conservation of ancient fabric rather than wholesale or drastic ‘restorations’. Morris himself founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) which has been an influential agent ever since.

Bibliography

Anscombe (1996);
Carruthers (1992);
Cumming & and Kaplan (1991);
P. Davey (1980, 1995);
Haigh (1995);
Hawkes (1986);
Kaplan (1987);
C. Kelley (2001);
Kornwolf (1972);
Lewis & Darley (1986);
Latham (ed.) (1980);
M. Richardson (1983);
Stansky (1996);
R. Winter (ed.) (1997)

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