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International design philosophy that originated in England. Flourished between 1860 and 1910 (especially the second half of that period), continuing its influence until the 1930s.

Instigated by the artist and writer William Morris (18341896) during the 1860s and inspired by the writings of John Ruskin (18191900).
It had its earliest and most complete development in the British Isles but spread to Europe and North America. It was largely a reaction against the impoverished state of the decorative arts and the conditions by which they were produced. The philosophy was an advocacy of traditional craftsmanship using simple forms and often medieval, romantic or folk styles of decoration. Included advocacy of economic & social reform,considered anti-industrial.

Started as search for aesthetic design & decoration & reaction against machine produced styles.
Objects simple in form, without superfluous decoration; often, process of construction was visible.

Tend to emphasize the qualities of the materials used ("truth to material").

They often had patterns inspired by British flora and fauna and used the vernacular, or domestic, traditions of the British countryside. Several designer-makers established workshops in rural areas and revived old techniques. They were influenced by the Gothic Revival (18301880) and were interested in medieval styles, using bold forms and strong colors based on medieval designs. They claimed to believe in the moral purpose of art. Truth to material, structure and function had also been advocated by A.W.N. Pugin (18121852), an exponent of the Gothic Revival. The Arts and Crafts style was partly a reaction against the style of many of the items shown in the Great Exhibition of 1851, which were ornate, artificial and ignored the qualities of the materials used.

English: Original design for Trellis wallpaper by William Morris, Date: 1862 Source: Scanned from Gillian Naylor, William Morris by Himself: Designs and Writings,

The art historian Nikolaus Pevsner has said that exhibits in the Great Exhibition showed "ignorance of that basic need in creating patterns, the integrity of the surface" and "vulgarity in detail.

Design reform began with the organizers of the Exhibition itself, Henry Cole (18081882), Owen Jones (18091874), Matthew Digby Wyatt (18201877) and Richard Redgrave (18041888). Jones, for example, declared that "Ornament ... must be secondary to the thing decorated", that there must be "fitness in the ornament to the thing ornamented", and that wallpapers and carpets must not have any patterns "suggestive of anything but a level or plain".
These ideas were adopted by William Morris. Where a fabric or wallpaper in the Great Exhibition might be decorated with a natural motif made to look as real as possible, a William Morris-designed wallpaper, like the Artichoke design illustrated next, would use a flat and simplified natural motif.

In order to express the alleged beauty of craft, some products were deliberately left slightly unfinished, resulting in a certain rustic and robust effect.
By the end of the nineteenth century, Arts and Crafts ideals had influenced architecture, painting, sculpture, graphics, illustration, book making and photography, domestic design and the decorative arts, including furniture and woodwork, stained glass, leatherwork, lace making, embroidery, rug making and weaving, jewellery and metalwork, enameling and ceramics.

Artichoke" wallpaper, by John Henry Dearle for William Morris & Co., circa 1897 (Victoria and Albert Museum).

Philosophy influenced by Ruskin's social criticism, which relate the moral and social health of a nation to the qualities of its architecture and design. Ruskin blamed machinery for many social ills; believed, healthy society depended on skilled and creative workers. Arts and Crafts artists opposed the division of labor to prefer craft production, where whole item was made & assembled by an individual or small group. They were concerned about decrease of rural handicrafts, which accompanied the development of industry, and the loss of traditional skills and creativity. Whereas Cole, Jones and Wyatt had accepted machine production, Morris mixed design criticism with social criticism, insisting that the artist should be a craftsman-designer. Morris and others, for example, Walter Crane and C.R.Ashbee (18631942), advocated a society of free craftspeople, which they believed had existed during the Middle Ages. "Because craftsmen took pleasure in their work", Morris wrote, "the Middle Ages was a period of greatness in the art of the common people. ... The treasures in our museums now are only the common utensils used in households of that age, when hundreds of medieval churches - each one a masterpiece - were built by unsophisticated peasants." 6

The first page of The Nature of Gothic by John Ruskin, printed by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press during 1892 and set in the Golden type, inspired by the 15th century printer Nicolas Jenson

Opinions changed: disagreement to machinery should be rejected completely,. Morris was not entirely consistent. He thought production by machinery was "altogether an evil", but when he could find manufacturers willing to work to his own exacting standards, he would use them to make his designs. He said that, in a "true society", where neither luxuries nor cheap trash were made, machinery could be improved and used to reduce the hours of labor. Ashbee, began as even more "medievalist" than Morris.

At the initiation of his Guild of Handicraft in 1888, he said, We do not reject the machine, we welcome it. But we would desire to see it mastered.
After twenty years of pitting his Guild and School of Handicraft guild against modern methods of manufacture, he acknowledged that Modern civilization rests on machinery. In Germany, (Hermann Muthesius and Henry Van de Velde, had) opposing opinions. Muthesius, who was director of design education for the German government, championed mass production, standardization and an affordable, democratic art.

Van de Velde thought mass production threatened creativity and individuality.

Philosophy associated with socialist ideas of Morris, Crane and Ashbee. Morris eventually spent more of his time on socialist propaganda than on designing and 8 making. Ashbee established a utopian community of craftsmen.

The Red House in Bexleyheath, Kent. One of the homes of William Morris and Jane Morris, designed by 9 Morris and the Philip Webb

Oregon Public Library, Oregon, Illinois.


LIST OF ARTISTS and ARCHITECTS who followed the Arts and Crafts Style
1. Charles Robert Ashbee 2. Herbert Tudor Buckland 3. T. J. Cobden-Sanderson 4. Walter Crane 5. Nelson Dawson 6. Christopher Dresser 7. Dirk van Erp 8. Ernest Gimson 9. Greene & Greene 10. Elbert Hubbard 11. Gertrude Jekyll 12. Edwin Lutyens 13. William Lethaby 14. Charles Rennie Mackintosh 15. A.H.Mackmurdo 16. George Washington Maher 17. Bernard Maybeck 18. Henry Chapman Mercer 19. Julia Morgan 20. William de Morgan 21. William Morris 22. Karl Parsons 23. Edward Schroeder Prior 24. Hugh C. Robertson 25. William Robinson 26. Norman Shaw 27. Gustav Stickley 28. Phoebe Anna Traquair 29. Charles Voysey 30. Philip Webb 31. Christopher Whall