The Arts and Crafts Movement

The Industrial Revolution played a decisive role in the development of the Western world and ultimately the entire human civilization. Like all major changes, this too faced some opposition, but the kind we will talk about now is of a more artistic nature. The appearance of mechanized methods of production used for consumer products made them more affordable but also reduced their quality.
A minority saw this changes as a threat to culture and society because something intended to help man produce objects faster, cheaper and better, ended up destroying creativity. This was one side of the story, the other side was that when decorated, consumer objects were made difficult to use and simply put, were ugly.

The two people responsible for starting a movement intended to recreate ”the old way” are William Morris and John Ruskin. The first paved the way through his own house (the Red House) which he decorated. Red House comes from the bricks used but could also be a hint to his political affiliations. John Ruskin on the other hand, wrote "The Stones of Venice", a book where he showed us that man can not make the job of machines, instead, he has the capacity to create unique things. 

From the beginning of the 19th century a series of important events influenced art. Slowly, Oriental art started to be injected into Western culture through international exhibitions. This was possible because everyone was aware that their industrial civilization produced objects of far lower quality than countries like China and Japan. In an attempt to recover the lost ground, artists tried to borrow Oriental motifs and techniques. A very good example is "The Peacock Room" made by Abbott McNeill Whistler.

Arts and Crafts developed as a movement between 1880 and 1910 first in Great Britain and then in America under the name "Mission Style". The American version will end up going on a separate way. Besides the artistic elements, which will be borrowed by the Aesthetic Movement, there is a strong social stance. Morris was an artist and writer, but also a socialist leader.

The framework of the movement was made up of guilds after a medieval model, also, Gothic aesthetic elements found their place in this artistic reform. In his own house, in 1861, Morris started "Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co.", the name later being changed to "Morris & Co". This was the start of a long series of such enterprises.

In 1881 "Home Arts and Industries Association" was created, with an emphasis on protecting rural traditions and developing an infrastructure for revitalizing the economic activity of craftsmen.

The Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society was formed in London in 1887 and started exhibitions annually with the aim to promote decorative arts. In 1891, William Morris became its president and made a change of policy, by organizing the exhibitions every three years.

The equilibrium between the object's function and the material from which it is created was very important for the Arts and Crafts artists. The shapes were simplified and borrowed much from medieval and Islamic design.

Time and economy proved that what Morris wanted could not be implemented. His vision was for everyone to have quality products, but quality was expensive so the middle class workers could not afford them.

 Charles Voysey

 Christopher Dresser

William Morris

William de Morgan

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