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Arts and Crafts

Approximate Dates 1870 to 1910
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Jefferson Market Library John Wesley United Meth. Church 273 Hancock St Bed Stuy 70 Eighth Avenue Park Slope No. 52. Park Slope
Style Definition
A movement which developed in the second half of the 19th century, in opposition to industrialization and associated social changes. The idea spread after the Great Exhibition of 1851, which had supposedly shown off in London the best craftsmanship of the day, but it had earlier roots in the emphasis which Jean-Jacques Rousseau had placed on craftsmanship in the 18th century and on the medievalism of Gothic revivalists like Pugin in the early 19th century. It was articulated in the writings of Ruskin, whose belief in the moral qualities of art led him to oppose machine production, and who believed in the ultimate inspiration of nature, rather than the rehashed historicism of the period. It was exemplified by the design work of William Morris, through his firm Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co., established in 1861. He employed artists such as Burne Jones and produced many designs himself, notably for wallpaper, textiles and stained glass, in which natural inspiration and truth to materials are the paramount considerations. The movement also inspired a generation of architects, led by Webb (who designed the Red House for Morris), Shaw, Ashbee and Voysey, who used vernacular architecture and traditional materials without resorting to the overt period style of the Queen Anne Movement.

The Arts and Crafts Movement had a strong socialist streak, seen in Morris's own writings (e.g. News from Nowhere, 1891) and in the numerous attempts to educate the masses (e.g. Ashbee's Guild and School of Arts and Crafts established in 1888). But the politics was always tempered by a nostalgia for the Middle Ages with their craftsmanship, guilds and religious endeavour. The movement organized exhibitions from 1888, but by then was already being superseded by the development of Art Nouveau which shared similar ideas but with a more contemporary outlook. However, its ideal lingered and is apparent in Gropius' Bauhaus manifesto.