Arts and Crafts Movement – The Search for Simplicity

During the second half of the nineteenth century the Arts & Crafts movement in England was born out of reaction to high Victorian over the top ornamentation. There was an underlying philosophy and desire to return to a simpler, more “honest” method of design and production, similar hat produced under the direction of medieval and religious guilds. The search for simplicity also led to tales from the exotic generated by an interest in the Middle and Far East. Ruskin’s essays strongly influenced William Morris and followers such as the architect Phillip Webb, the designer Walter Crane and ther exotic ceramic tile manufacturer William de Morgan. Designer Augustus Welby Pugin used a Gothic Revival style for his designs for the new Houses of Parliament in Westminster. Shapes and symbols were generally simple and flowing- metal strap-work fittings on furniture retained their distinctive hammer-marks with metals like copper and brass in favour. Designs deriving from traditional Celtic ornament became popular. Perhaps the finest exponent was Archibald Knox from the Isle of Man. He produced wonderful goods for the innovative London department store Liberty & Co., which had been established in 1875. Knox’s work in pewter and silver with applied enamel decoration was highly sought after. Furniture designers such as the architect Charles Voysey, and the firm of Godwin and Wyburd used oak as their preferred timber with mortice and tenon joints and exposed construction a feature. In the U.S.A these basic themes were streamlined in the design work of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Grand Rapids furniture Produced by Gustav Stickley and Limber-t. Adjuncts to the style included the bronze and leadlight lamps manufactured by Louis Comfort Tiffany and a strong interest in American native art forms.

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