Published: March 8, 2011
The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) recently inaugurated “Gustav Stickley and the American Arts & Crafts Movement,” the first nationally touring exhibition to offer a comprehensive examination of the work of one of the leading figures of the American Arts and Crafts movement, Gustav Stickley. The exhibition is currently on view at the DMA until May 8, and will subsequently open at the San Diego Museum of Art on June 18.
Organized by the DMA, the exhibition examines Stickley’s contributions to the American Arts and Crafts movement during his most productive and creative period, from 1900 to 1913. Ranging from furniture and metalware to embroidered textiles and architectural drawings, the majority of the objects on view are from private collections, and three-quarters have never before been seen by the public.
Curated by Kevin W. Tucker, the museum’s Margot B. Perot curator of decorative arts and design, the exhibition premiered in September 2010 to critical acclaim at the Newark Museum in conjunction with the centennial celebration of the designer’s New Jersey home, Craftsman Farms.
The exhibition provides new insights into the artistic, commercial and social context of Stickley’s entry into the Arts and Crafts realm, the ideological development of his enterprise and the formation of the Craftsman home and lifestyle. It also illuminates the vibrant identity of the “Craftsman” that Stickley developed and furthered through the creation and promotion of his furniture and household goods.
Stickley (1858‱942) was one of the leading figures in the Arts and Crafts movement in the United States. Unlike his predecessors in the English movement, Stickley began his career as a furniture factory owner, and only began to discover the precepts and stylings of the movement in the late 1890s. Balancing the core principles of the movement, with its emphasis upon the functional and handmade, and integrating it within a factory production system, Stickley’s firm made Arts and Crafts furniture, metalwork and textiles widely available at a reasonable cost through retailers across the United States.
From 1901 to 1916, Stickley also published The Craftsman magazine, which became a leading national journal of the movement’s ideals.
This exhibit includes more than 100 works produced by Stickley’s designers and workshops, including furniture, metalwork, lighting and textiles, along with architectural drawings and related designs.
One of the exhibition’s major highlights is the re-creation of the dining room arranged and furnished by Stickley in the 1903 Arts and Crafts Exhibition organized by Stickley and presented in his Syracuse (N.Y.) Craftsman Building. The model dining room was a sensation, attracting the attention and admiration of many visitors and critics. A period photograph of the original room corroborates the acclaim, showing a beautifully orchestrated setting that includes oak and fabric wall coverings, a Donegal carpet with stylized floral motifs and richly modeled Grueby Pottery vessels on the table and sideboard.
One of the masterpieces on display in the re-creation is a unique linen chest, now part of the DMA’s collections, made especially for the room, along with a selection of related furnishings that have not been reunited since 1903. The massive linen chest with its low profile, refined lines and bold wrought iron hinges and lock fittings is a stunning example of the work of Stickley’s designers at the height of their creative powers.
Other highlights in the show include an armoire, circa 1907‱912, that Stickley kept for his private use in the decades after he sold his business. A chalet table, circa 1900, represents Stickley’s break from the ornamental language of the past century. The boldly simple design is among his firm’s most seemingly prescient designs. A unique three-fold leather screen, circa 1902‱905, with tooled floral ornamentation, is also on display. While Stickley’s firm, under the name United Crafts (circa 1901‱903), produced a selection of furnishings with decorated leather surfaces, this is the only known surviving example of its type.
A rare armchair, circa 1903, with copper and wood inlay reflects Stickley’s brief foray into decorated Arts and Crafts furniture influenced by the work of progressive British and Scottish designers. The form of the sled-footed chair is equally influenced by European sources, yet its elegant realization is distinctly American in character.
Dallas Museum of Art is at 1717 North Harwood. For information, 214-922-1802 or www.DallasMuseumofArt.org .
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