An anthology of writings on interior design by William Morris and his contemporaries, with information about the early years of the Arts & Crafts Movement in England and America.
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During the 1870's, American Anglophiles became acquainted with the Arts & Crafts Movement, first introduced through interest in the Gothic Revival and the paintings and writings of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The art and architectural criticism of Ruskin, which laid the foundation of the movement, and lectures on decorative arts of William Morris were available at the Boston Athenaeum and other American libraries as soon as they were published in London. Morris & Company began to sell their wallpapers in Boston in 1873, and by the mid 1870s had representatives for their growing line of wallpaper, fabric and carpet in many major American cities. Inspired by English work, Arts & Crafts artisans and workshop groups around America began producing their own designs by end of the 1870's, with especially strong centers of activity in Boston and Cincinnati. The Arts & Crafts Movement also shaped American architecture, especially with the development of the Queen Anne Revival, and with emerging styles that were based on the "old-fashioned homes" of the American Colonial period: the Shingle Style and the Old Colony Style. The first generation of Arts & Crafts artisans employed a diverse expression of styles, which drew inspiration from England, but also from Japan and from the regional traditional crafts and architecture of America.
Arts & Crafts Movement ideas were given an even wider audience during the 1882 American tour of Oscar Wilde. He championed Morris, the Pre-Raphaelites and the design and art-manufacturing philosophy in lectures presented in over 120 North American towns and cities. By the mid-1880's, English designs and locally made Arts & Crafts products were specified by trendsetting American architects and selected by affluent homeowners for the most stylish and fashionable American townhouses, suburban cottages and country villas. It was the children who grew up in these artistic homes of the 1880s who became patrons of Gustav Stickley, subscribed to the Craftsman Magazine, and built bungalows for their first homes.
This web anthology includes articles and lectures on the Arts & Crafts Movement that have been transcribed from original copies found in libraries and private collections in and around Boston, with a majority from the collection of the Boston Athenaeum. The dates span from the early 1870's, when Americans first were introduced to the philosophy of art manufacture, to the end of the century, when a new, more commercial Arts & Crafts manufacturing style developed. A few early twentieth century writings of Arts & Crafts followers, who were active in their careers prior to 1900, are also included.
Information on second generation of the American Arts & Crafts Movement can be found at: The Arts & Crafts Society. More information on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood can be found on The Victorian Web.
For further information on 19th century interior design, please see Booknotes
Second Illustration - A Modern Settle (American) From The Art of the House, 1897.
Lower photograph shows handpainted English tiles, c. 1880, from the collection of J.R. Burrows.