34 Chapter 11 – Arts & Crafts Movement

Art Nouveau

Shayla Beauchamp

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William Morris (Morris & Co.), Strawberry Thief textile detail, 1883

The Arts and Crafts movement was a defining period in the late 19th century and early 20th, its influence granted the modern world the opportunity to finetune traditional morals to suit a new, more developed society. With these reinvented morals came new perspectives and opinions. The movement allowed artists that typically would not have had a voice to be recognized. The influx of diverse artists during the Arts and Crafts Movement allowed for the art to be influenced by many different perspectives, thus promoting unique and rare styles that otherwise would not have been spotlighted.

A Wooden Pattern for Textile Printing from William Morris’s Company (Morris & Co.)

The Arts and Crafts movement created drastic change and spread its roots all over the world, beginning in the United Kingdom around 1860 it grew to spread its influence to the rest of Europe, American and eventually Japan by 1920.[1] “Anxieties about industrial life fueled a positive revaluation of hand craftsmanship and precapitalist forms of culture and society”[2] This movement entailed many factors that catalyzed its success but the main aspect was the fear that the world had become too industrialized. “The division of labour had led to a moral and artistic collapse that could only be reversed by returning control over working practices to the craftsman.[3]” Motivated by concerns that machinery was absorbing society of its true craftsmen and unique art the people began a revolution of home made, quality crafted and practical goods in order to “suppress the proliferation of cheap, mass-produced objects.[4]”The movement included architecture, painting, sculpture, furniture, ect. Social reformists began the movement with a goal of “preserving handcraft and the authenticity of the artist.[5]

 

“I do not want art for a few, any more than I want education for a few, or freedom for a few.”
– William Morris.
This movement was not developed for the rich or poor, it was created for the masses and curated in such a way that it aimed to improve the lives of everyone involved. “The craftsman was given the freedom to select consciously or unconsciously whatever design motives forms and techniques he or she deemed appropriate – the result was a wide range of products that expressed the individual personality of the designer.[6]

William Morris, Design for “Trellis” wallpaper, 1862

With no definitive style this form of art was more accepting than others. It did not require prior skills, education or knowledge. Artists were not bound to rules or styles but instead encouraged to create their own unique, handcrafted art in support of the movement and its beliefs. “The Movement had no manifesto, and is notoriously difficult to define as a style.[7]” With this open-mindedness the movement invited artists from all ways of life and encouraged them to develop the Arts and Crafts into their own style. Contrasting art periods prior to its time the Arts and Crafts sought out less known and less established artists in order to incorporate a multitude of pieces that were authentic and created with integrity, two very important factors to this idea.

 

William Morris, Design for “Windrush” textile pattern, 1881-83

The demand for new ideas granted aspirant artists the chance to showcase their work regardless of experience or background. “The Arts and Crafts community was open to the efforts of non-professionals, encouraging the involvement of amateurs and students.[8]” The optimism held within amateur artists was a major factor in the success and influence of the Arts and Crafts Movement. With new artists came new or reworked perspectives and styles, a defining aspect of the movement. “The magazine, The Studio -included -competitions for amateur artists and designers.[9]” Opportunities such as these were a big deal to undiscovered artists, if they were not born into wealth or status they were now granted a chance for their art to be recognized. If the movement and society did not hold such value to ideas of non-mechanized, authentic items there would be no need to search for such a vast amount of new and diverse artists. William Morris, ”The leading champion of the Arts and Crafts movement.[10]” was a strong advocate for ideas of non-mechanized art and originality. In his pursuit to further the movement he developed schools that were aimed to assist Arts and Crafts artists. “He (Morris) had initiated a genuine revival of art industry and was now instrumental in forming a school of designers and makers.[11]” These schools offered artists the ability to improve their skills and further their craftsmanship. This in turn furthered the movement, resulting in items that were more skilled and rare in style. If not given the opportunity to be educated and evolve their skills many of the artists from this movement may not have produced work. This school created by William Morris encouraged artists to perfect and produce their own, unique styles.

With the new inclusion of diverse artists into the scene pieces from the movement became increasingly more distinct. “For the first time, women as well as men could begin to take an active role in developing new forms of design, both as makers and consumers.[12]” The acceptance of women into the movement allowed for even further unique creations and the demand for them as well. With the addition of more feminine qualities and ideas this art assisted in the further development of the movement’s ideals. The works of the time now contained the ideas and opinions of a women. When these opinions are included pieces can become even more practical around the house and become further appealing to women.

Newcomb Pottery, Vase, 1902–1904

Women taking a more involved roll as a consumer allowed them to have a say in the importance of Arts and Crafts products, resulting in them further assisting in the success of the movement, “Unlike other women of the time Arts and Crafts women were able to build professional careers for themselves.[13]” Previously it was very uncommon for a women who was not of status to be able to produce art and receive recognition. With the movement’s reform to society and its thoughts it now became a possibility for these women to truly be considered artists and consumers, in the world of Arts and Crafts. In doing so they gained the ability to make a meaningful contribution to society and the Arts and Crafts Movement.

 

The Arts and Crafts Movement brought great social and artistic reform to society. One of the contributing factors to its success was the idea that an Arts and Crafts artist did not have to possess a certain background. If amateur artists were not included in Arts and Crafts the movement would’ve been stunted with the same, manufactured pieces that began it. The newly found inclusion of various types of artists directly influenced the art, allowing the pieces to be extremely authentic and diverse.

 

Bibliography

Clericuzio, Peter. 2017. “Arts and Crafts Movement.” https://www.theartstory.org/movement/arts-and-crafts/history-and-concepts/.

Dempsey, Amy. “Arts and Crafts Movement Origins, History, Aims and Aesthetic.” 2007. http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/history-of-art/arts-and-crafts.htm.

Greenstead, Mary. n.d. “The Arts and Crafts Movement: exchanges between Greece and Britain (1876-1930).” Accessed October 23, 2020. https://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/1110/1/Greensted10MPhil_A1a.pdf.

Nakayama, Shuichi. “The Impact of William Morris in Japan, 1904 to the Present.” Journal of Design History 9, no. 4 1996. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1316044.

Obniski, Monika. “The Arts and Crafts Movement in American.” 2008. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/acam/hd_acam.htm.

Triggs, Oscar L. The Arts and Crafts Movement. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Parkstone International. 2009.

Victoria and Albert Museum. “Arts and Crafts: An Introduction.” Accessed October 23, 2020. https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/arts-and-crafts-an-introduction.

Zipf, Catherine W. Professional Pursuits: Women and the American Arts and Crafts Movement. Knoxville, Tennessee: The University of Tennessee Press. 2007.


  1. Suichi Nakayama, “The Impact of William Morris in Japan, 1904 to the present” 1996, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1316044.
  2. Monika Obniski, “The Arts and Crafts Movement in America” 2008, https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/acam/hd_acam.htm.
  3. Mary Greenstead, “The Arts and Crafts Movement: exchanges between Greece and Britain (1876-1930)” Accessed October 23, 2020. https://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/1110/1/Greensted10MPhil_A1a.pdf.
  4. Catherine W. Zipf, Professional Pursuits: Women and the American Arts and Crafts Movement (The University of Tennessee Press. 2007), 125
  5. Peter Clericuzio, “Arts and Crafts Movement” 2017, https://www.theartstory.org/movement/arts-and-crafts/history-and-concepts/.
  6. Catherine W.  Zipf, Professional Pursuits: Women and the American Arts and Crafts Movement, 5.
  7. Mary Greenstead, “The Arts and Crafts Movement: exchanges between Greece and Britain (1876-1930)” 7.
  8. Victoria and Albert Museum “Arts and Crafts: An Introduction” Accessed October 23, 2020, https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/arts-and-crafts-an-introduction.
  9.   Mary Greenstead, “The Arts and Crafts Movement: exchanges between Greece and Britain (1876-1930)” 13.
  10. Amy Dempsey, “Arts and Crafts Movement Origins, History, Aims and Aesthetic” 2007, http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/history-of-art/arts-and-crafts.htm.
  11. Oscar Triggs, The Arts and Crafts Movement (Parkstone International. 2009), 69.
  12. Victoria and Albert Museum “Arts and Crafts: An Introduction” Accessed October 23, 2020, https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/arts-and-crafts-an-introduction.
  13. Catherine W. Zipf,  Professional Pursuits: Women and the American Arts and Crafts Movement 1.

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Chapter 11 - Arts & Crafts Movement by Shayla Beauchamp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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