The movement took it’s name from the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society founded in 1887, but encompassed a wide range of like-minded societies, workshops and manufacturers. It was a movement based around ideals and grew out of concern for the effects of industrialisation on design and traditional skills. It is based around a new set of principles for living and working which focused on art at every level and across the social spectrum.
The movement was unlike any which had gone before. It pioneered a spirit of reform, and placed a high value on quality of materials and design.
The Arts and crafts movement came about due to the disastrous effects of industrial manufacture and unregulated trade. In the 1860s and 1870s, architects, designer and artist began to pioneer new approaches to design and decorative arts, which became the foundation of the movement. The aim of the movement was for social as well as artistic reform.
By the 1880s William Morris had become and international renowned designed and manufacturer. New guilds and societies began to take up his ideas that, for the first time, presented a unified approach amongst architects, painter, sculptors and designers. In doing so, the Arts and crafts movement was spread amongst the wider public.
The provider of great inspiration, the poet, businessman, political campaigner and designer was a forceful influence. Morris had great manual skill that was a living example of the principles of arts and crafts. His ability to not only deign, but execute work of outstanding beauty in wallpapers, printed work as well as woven and embroidered textiles was highly regarded. He was also an outstanding businessman, who founded a firm to retail furnishings produced in his workshops, where craftsmen were given free rein.
Morris had set out to train as an architect in the office of eminent Gothic Revivalist, G.E. Street. There he met Philip Webb, who became a lifelong friend and designed Red House, Bexleyheath for him and his new wife. Red House is regarded as one of the first fully integrated Arts and Crafts domestic environments. Webb continued to work as an Architect, where as Morris moved on to specialise in the decorative arts.
Morris became associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, through his friend Edward Burne-Jones whom he met at Oxford as a student. It was through there influence that he met his wife ( a favoured model of the Pre-Raphaelites) and designed their home together – Red House. The house was so successful that Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co was established in London to sell the aesthetic to the Public.
The Arts and Crafts movement spread it’s ethos through special interest associations. In imitation of medieval crafts guilds, John Ruskin se up the St George’s Guild. The guilds were sometime small co-operative production units, but others were large confederations dedicated to publicising the cause. One of the earliest was the Century Guild, founded by A. H. Mackmurdo (pioneer of the Art Nouveau style). While the Century Guild was mainly concerned with production, it also published a stylish magazine, the Hobby horse which projected an alluring image of the Arts and Crafts lifestyle.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the Arts and Crafts Movement had established itself as the principal art movement in Britain, and was well known abroad. In Europe, Germany responded most enthusiastically to Arts and Crafts influence, especially in the Darmstadt Artists’ Colony, and through the foundation in 1907 of the Deutscher Werkbund, which was, however, less antagonistic to industry. In the countries of Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, Arts and Crafts influence combined with a revival of interest in folk art, which fed into nationalist movements.
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