Celtic Modernity

Modernism in the United Kingdom was born out of reaction to high Victorian overstuffed interiors. There was a desire to return to a simpler time with honest methods of design and production, akin to those of medieval and religious guilds. William Morris and his colleagues Phillip Webb, Walter Crane, William de Morgan, together with the man who turned technology into art, Christopher Dresser were trendsetters. Charles Robert Ashbee’s Guild of Handicrafts founded in 1880 set the stage for smaller workshops with co-operating craftsmen. They were reacting against poor quality decoration on commercially produced goods. Shapes and symbols were simple and metal strap-work fittings on furniture retained hammer-marks. Copper, brass and iron were favoured with Celtic ornament very popular. Its finest exponent was Archibald Knox from the Isle of Man. He produced wonderful works in pewter and silver with enamel decoration for innovative London department store Liberty & Co., founded in 1875.

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