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The Arts and Crafts Movement

The Arts and Crafts Movement

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will present an overview of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

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Tutorial

An overview of the Arts and Crafts Movement and its influence on architecture and design.

Video Transcription

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Hello. I'd like to welcome to this episode of exploring art history with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell, and today's lesson is about the Arts an Crafts movement. As you're watching the video feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you should be able to identify and define today's key terms, describe the motivation behind the Arts & Crafts Movement, and identify examples of products from the Arts & Crafts movement.

Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is Arts and Crafts, a 19th-century movement in architecture and design that reacted against the Industrial Revolution by promoting a return to beautiful, handcrafted objects.

Craftsman-- the manifestation of the Arts and Crafts style in the United States, it occurred primarily with architecture and furniture design and emphasized clean straight lines, natural materials, and handmade carpentry.

Textile-- cloth made by weaving or knitting.

Decorative arts-- the design of objects that are both beautiful and useful. Could include furniture, jewelery, and pottery, among other things.

Total Work of Art-- the idea that all the elements in a space-- the furniture, fabrics, wall treatments, lamps, and other accessories-- are designed to work together to create a harmonious and aesthetically pleasing space.

The big idea for today is that one of the principal philosophies of the Arts and Crafts movement was a rejection of machine-made decoration and a focus on the qualities of the materials. So we'll be looking at examples of design and architecture between 1859 and 1909.

And we'll be traveling to Syracuse, New York where Gustav Stickley died in 1942, and London, England, the home of William Morris, and Pasadena, California, the location of the Gamble House.

At its core, the Arts and Crafts movement was very much anti-industrialization. Its philosophy defined its aesthetic, and its philosophy, in a nutshell, emphasized the handmade and quality crafted objects produced through skilled meaningful labor. Now this was a direct response to the mechanization and automation of the Industrial Revolution.

So William Morris was a very important early figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement and helped to define its philosophy and its emphasis. Now Morris was an artist and writer with many contributions to the Arts and Crafts movement in fields as varied as architecture, topography or typography, and textile design.

As a typographer, he focused on recreating the styles of the 15th century and founded the Kelmscott Press in London as a way of producing books using traditional methods. Now in terms of architecture he helped in designing, the aptly named Red House, his home, and one of the best examples of the Arts and Crafts movement in architecture in Britain.

Now it adheres to the Arts and Crafts aesthetic in its use of ordinary building materials like red brick and stylistic references to the traditional English cottage. He envisioned the home as a place where art could be produced and appreciated.

Now Morris' contributions to the Arts and Crafts philosophy include his idea that labor should be meaningful, that objects should be beautiful and useful, and that all the elements in an interior should work together to create a total work of art. Now this idea of a total or complete work of art went beyond the Arts and Crafts movement and took hold as a fundamental aspect of the Art Nouveau movement, for example, as well as in later schools of design such as Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie style or prairie school architecture.

Now the total work of art idea wasn't completely new. A version of it actually existed within the Rococo period as well, where the concept extended as far as to include the actual people that were in the room and the way that they dressed.

Morris' philosophy seemed more rooted in tradition or perhaps nature and how the different aspects of home such as the exterior design, the interior wall coverings we see here, and the art within it complemented each other to almost function like some sort of organism.

The Arts and Crafts movement rejected machine-made decoration and focused the attention on the qualities, or the quality of materials. Now the Gamble House in Pasadena, California is one of the best examples and one of the most iconic examples of craftsman style architecture in the United States. It was designed by the architectural firm Greene & Greene for David and Mary Gamble of Procter & Gamble fame. So this house was literally built with Ivory soap money.

Now notice the emphasis on wood and earth tones. There's a strong emphasis on horizontal lines in this example and the influence of Japanese architecture-- something that would become important for the craftsman style architecture in the United States-- is evident with the large overhanging eaves of the roof, the wide porches and the integration of interior space or interior and exterior spaces.

You can also tell how well the house seems to function as a complete unit. Every element seems appropriate and applicable, a total work of art. You may also notice the familiarity of house. The exterior shots were used for Doc Brown's home in Back to the Future. That's right. This is where the flux capacitor was conceived.

One of the most interesting things about the Arts and Crafts style, in my opinion, is its longevity. It never really went completely away since its inception. It actually-- it's still around today. It's more like it drifted and in out of popularity.

This is due in large part to its central philosophy of quality handmade construction, an idea that seems to resonate with every generation. It may also have to do with the fact that because of the design philosophy, the stuff seems to last forever, being passed on from generation to generation. Craftsman furniture would fall into that category.

The artist and designer Gustav Stickley is, like Morris, one of the most important early figures in the Arts and Crafts Movement. Stickley's furniture designs, like this desk, emphasize horizontal and vertical lines, a light stained wood, and the implication that the furniture was handmade, even though pieces of it were semi mass-produced in a workshop.

Now this example of an adjustable-backed chair by Gustav Stickley is one of the most iconic designs to emerge from the Arts and Crafts Movement. It's still a design that can be found in furniture produced today. I actually owned a Barcalounger that looked almost identical to this, and I love that chair.

Now the overall design is very simple and functional, largely contributing to its long-term success as a design. It's a lightly stained wooden chair with a strong emphasis again on horizontal and vertical lines. Again, the very simple surfaces are unadorned. It's really stripped down to its basic functionality, but it still looks good, and there are no elaborate decorative elements to hide what the designer wants to convey, the quality of the materials and an attention to construction. And it really is a masterpiece of design.

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives again to see if we met them. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms, describe the motivation behind the Arts and Crafts movement, and identify examples of products from the Arts and Crafts movement?

Once again the big idea for today. One of the principal philosophies of the Arts and Crafts movement was a rejection of machine-made decoration and a focus on the qualities of the materials. And that's it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Notes on "The Arts and Crafts Movement"

Key Terms

Arts and Crafts

A 19th-century movement in architecture and design that reacted against the Industrial Revolution by promoting a return to beautiful, handcrafted objects.

Craftsman

The manifestation of the Arts and Crafts style in the United States, it occurred primarily with architecture and furniture design emphasized clean, straight lines, natural materials, and handmade carpentry.

Textile

Cloth made by weaving or knitting.

Decorative Arts

The design of objects that are both beautiful and useful. Could include furniture, jewelry, and pottery, among other things.

Total Work of Art

The idea that all of the elements in a space (the furniture, fabrics, wall treatments, lamps and other accessories) are designed to work together to create a harmonious and aesthetically pleasing space.


Citations

Gamble House; Creative Commons: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GambleHouse-2005_edit1.jpg Adjustable Chair; Public Domain (PD-1923): http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Adjustable-Back_Chair_No._2342,_Gustav_Stickley,_1900-1904_-_IMG_1632.JPG Gustav Desk; Creative Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WLA_brooklynmuseum_Gustav_Stickley_Desk_ca_1904.jpg; Image of Red House  Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Red_House,_Bexleyheath.JPG; Image of Gamble House Interior Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gamble_Porch.jpg; Image of Gamble House Angle Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gamble_House.jpg; Image of Willow Textile Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Morris_Tulip_and_Willow_design_1873.jpg 

 

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Total Work of Art

    The idea that all of the elements in a space (the furniture, fabrics, wall treatments, lamps and other accessories) are designed to work together to create a harmonious and aesthetically pleasing space.

  • Decorative Arts

    The design of objects that are both beautiful and useful. Could include furniture, jewelry, and pottery, among other things.

  • Textile

    Cloth made by weaving or knitting.

  • Craftsman

    The manifestation of the Arts and Crafts style in the United States, it occurred primarily with architecture and furniture design emphasized clean, straight lines, natural materials, and handmade carpentry.

  • Arts and Crafts

    A 19th-century movement in architecture and design that reacted against the Industrial Revolution by promoting a return to beautiful, handcrafted objects.