The Arts & Crafts Movement - Then and Now

From: Saturday, 21 June 2014 to Saturday, 9 August 2014

The ARTS AND CRAFTS MOVEMENT continues to inspire artists, craftsmen and a general appreciation for the hand made and beauty in function.

However the movement’s far reaching influence was all but lost to memory after two world wars but renewed interest is now well established and its influence is part of the fabric of our society and this exhibition showcases designers who embrace the philosophy. As homage to the birth place of the ARTS AND CRAFTS MOVEMENT the designers in the exhibition are from the United Kingdom and their items made within the UK, utilising the collective experience of many people - young and old - and in some cases recreating items which preserve the past and stabilise the future of textile skills.

THE ARTS AND CRAFTS MOVEMENT came into existence as an outcome of the industrialisation which had swept across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland and eventually most of the western world. The movement gathered strength and direction so that by the 1860’s a ground swell started to change the way a number of people thought about work and living and endeavoured to make changes for the better.

The people who created the arts and crafts movement realised the loss of skills and the need for better working conditions. There was also a desire for objects made in a good and honest way and CRAFTSMANSHIP was redefined.

The ARTS AND CRAFT MOVEMENT is full of memorable and talented people and William Morris is the most well known and his company MORRIS & CO still produce many of his designs today. William Morris was involved with another influential group known as the PRE-RAPHAELITES.

LIBERTY another leading company employed artisans and designers for its large store in the heart of London. LIBERTY, still utilise the skills of many talented designers past and present for their textile designs.

The movement travelled to Europe transforming into Art Nouveau utilising the shapes and forms of nature yet often with clean, modern styling made famous by many. In France this era produced an amazing period of creative design in all available materials. Jean Daum and Emile Galle both of Nancy in north east France made glassware and furniture which is dazzling in design and craftsmanship.

Late in the 20th Century in Vienna the Secessionist Movement were founded by Gustav Klimt who with others of the group have left a legacy of impressive work.

Loetz who were glass producers in Bohemia were exemplary for their innovation in the production of glass and its combination with metal work.

In Venice, Mariano Fortuny worked in his studio painting, printing fabrics and producing fine pleated silk dresses. His workshop producing hand printed, pleated silk and cotton textiles still functions creating exquisite textiles.

In America the movement was very modern, making the arts and crafts element a strong focus however Louis Comfort Tiffany created in the art nouveau style using glass and metal creating remarkable effects from his unique techniques.

Another remarkable aspect of the ARTS AND CRAFTS MOVEMENT was the holistic approach envisioning an improved future for all workers.

Some outstanding achievements came from the Cadbury brothers – who built houses and gardens for their employees to encourage physical outdoor work.

Another influential man was William Robertson who was responsible for the naturalist gardens for which England is now famous. As a horticulturist and writer he persuaded change and was so successful that he is almost forgotten as it seems as though this style of garden always existed.

SUGGESTED FURTHER READING

  • THE ARTS AND CRAFTS MOVEMENT by ROSALIND BLAKESLEY - Phaidon
  • MORRIS & CO by CHRISTOPER MENZ - Art Gallery of South Australia
  • THE PRE-RAPHAELITES AT HOME by PAMELA TODD - Pavilion
  • FORTUNY INTERIORS by BRIAN COLEMAN - Gibbs Smith