Arts and Crafts Movement

“I do not want art for a few, any more than I want freedom for a few.”
– William Morris

The Arts and Crafts was one of the most influential aesthetic movement inspired by John Ruskin and people sharing a strong belief that low quality and “soulless” goods are replacing real art and beauty. The decline of folk handicrafts was seen as disappearing of traditional skills and creativity. Industrial Revolution and its products were viewed as meaningless and mundane. Artists, designers and craftsmen found a common goal, making art affordable and restoring importance and pride of traditional handicrafts. Arts and Crafts Movement had strong influence on the arts in Europe, North America and even Japan where it inspired the Mingei movement. Around 1930 Modernism, affecting the world of art long afterwards, displaced it.

The Arts and Crafts was not a style, it was an ideology and philosophy promoting craftsman, local materials and traditions and concept of art for masses. Movement supporters believed that art should be beautiful and functional and the only way to achieve it was authentic and meaningful work. The movement called for design reform of art at every level, as well as social reform emphasizing importance of quality of life and produced goods.

William Morris, designer, writer and activist, insisted that art should not only be handmade but the artist should also enjoy his work, and take pleasure and pride in it.

In the process of defining “true craftsmanship”, the designers and their personality became more important than a style itself. Rustic, folk and robust designs became a personification of beauty.

Arts and Crafts designs became popular with the middle and upper classes. Despite the need to create a democratic art, most of the handmade goods were too expensive for common people.

Between 1895 and 1905 more than a 130 Arts and Crafts organizations were established in Britain, spreading and popularizing the movement.

By the end of 19th century Arts and Crafts movement influenced almost every type of art and decorative arts, including architecture, furniture, interior design, jewelry and ceramics.

Appreciation for local customs and traditions lead to revival of folk art and rising interest in domestic architecture. Art became a way to express national identity and pride.

Although the movement lost its position around World War I, the principles of design, unity of fine and applied arts can be found behind designer-makers popular since 1950s around the world.

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