Arts & Crafts - Table of Contents

Brief History of the Arts and Crafts (Craftsman) Movement

Beginnings in England

In 19th century England, the Arts and Crafts movement was an outraged response to the Industrial Revolution, which was threatening time-honored manual crafts with extinction. The movement was also one of social and political reform.

John Ruskin (1819-1900) was an artist, scientist, poet, environmentalist, philosopher, and the preeminent art critic of his time. In terms of art, he provided the impetus that gained respectability for the Pre-Raphaelites.

Ruskin was not an architect, but as writer (Seven Lamps of Architecture, 1849, and The Stones of Venice, 1851-53) he influenced the return from Neoclassicism to the earlier Gothic style.

William Morris (1834-96) was an English poet, artist, and socialist reformer, who rejected the opulence on the Victorian era and urged a return to medieval traditions of design, craftsmanship, and community.He and some friends established a firm in 1861 to manufacture wallpaper, stained glass, chintzes, and later also carpets, tapestries, and woven furnishing materials.

Morris & Company began to sell their wallpapers in Boston in 1873, and by the mid 1870s had representatives for their growing line of wallpaper, fabric and carpet in many major American cities.

United States

In America, the Arts and Crafts movement, 1890-1920 -- often referred to as the Craftsman movement -- expressed dissatisfaction that industrialization had failed to provide a decent environment for working people and at the same time resulted in shoddy mass-produced goods. It encouraged simple honest design with a regard for the integrity of the material employed.

The movement took hold on both coasts and in the Middle West.

West: Charles and Henry Greene were brothers, .whose Arts and Crafts designs in the Pasadena area reflect Japanese influence

Midwest: Frank Lloyd Wright's version of Arts & Crafts was the Prairie Style

Northeast: Gustav Stickley created the first truly American furniture, known throughout the world as Craftsman. A hardworking, dedicated man, Stickley achieved success in the early 1900s as the leader of the Arts & Crafts Movement in America.

After a trip to England in 1898 Stickley was inspired by British reformers, John Ruskin and William Morris, to create a new line of handcrafted furniture based on honesty and simplicity.

Northeast: Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) visited England and met William Morris. He was inspired to start an Arts & Crafts community -- which he called Roycroft -- in East Aurora.

Buffalo: Buffalo boasts five Prairie houses by Frank Lloyd Wright, a fine collection of bungalows, and the Roycroft campus and museum in nearby East Aurora

See also:  Founders of The Arts & Crafts Movement 1870 - 1900


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