Published: March 7, 2006
More than 300 of the finest examples of the Arts and Crafts Movement dating from 1880 to 1945 will be on display in “International Arts and Crafts: William Morris to Frank Lloyd Wright,” March 18 to June 18 at de Young Museum. Organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, this is the most comprehensive exhibition ever assembled on the Arts and Crafts Movement. It is also the first to look at it from a truly international perspective, tracing the development of the movement from its flourishing in Britain in the 1880s to its interpretation and development in the United States, Europe, Scandinavia and Japan.
The objects on view have been drawn from private and public collections all over the world, with approximately a third of them coming from the V&A’s collections. They include textiles, stained glass, furniture, ceramics, metalwork, jewelry, books, architecture, photography, paintings and sculpture. Altogether they serve to illustrate how Arts and Crafts became the first British design movement to have widespread and recognizable international influence.
A special feature of the exhibition is four specially created room sets emphasizing the importance of the Arts and Crafts home and interior. There will be two British sets – one urban and one rural – one American Craftsman room and one Japanese model room dating from 1928 and recreated recently with rediscovered objects.
Other highlights include objects by influential Britishdesigners, such as Voysey, Mackintosh, Ashbee, Morris and BaillieScott; a group of Russian objects that have not heretofore beenexhibited in the United States; 4-meters-wide stained glass doorsby California designers Greene and Greene, as well as works byGustav Stickley and Frank Lloyd Wright; and Japanese objects bycraftsmen of the Mingei (folk crafts) movement.
“International Arts and Crafts” explores the influence of Arts and Crafts through the decorative arts across all spectrums of society from furniture made for country cottages to highly crafted silver, glass, textiles and fine art made for houses of the rich.
Each section of the exhibition, which is organized geographically, explores the distinctive characteristics of the Arts and Crafts Movement and the different ways in which its ideas were interpreted as it developed in countries or regions from England to Japan.
The movement emerged and flourished in Britain in the 1880s. It then spread to continental Europe and Scandinavia from 1880 to 1914, and to America from 1890 to 1916 before its final manifestation in the Mingei movement in Japan between 1928 and 1945. In Scandinavia, Austria, Russia and German, the Arts and Crafts ideology led to a revival of nationalism as craftsmen returned to indigenous materials and native traditions. In America, the movement flourished in the Midwest, Upstate New York, Boston and California.
For California and the West, the earliest examples of the Arts and Crafts Movement were created in the Bay Area. In San Francisco, the Swedenborgian Church in Pacific Heights was one of the earliest projects realized by a group of artists, architects and designers in the spirit of the Arts and Crafts ideals.
In 1894 and 1895, artists William Keith and May CurtisRobinson and architects Albert C. Schweinfurth, A. Page Brown, andBernard Maybeck collaborated on this church under the inspirationof the Reverend Joseph Worcester. Maybeck (1862-1957), who startedas a draftsman on this project, subsequently created more than 40private residences and several public landmarks in the area, somein his singular Gothic style featuring massive carved timbers.
The Craftsman bungalow was popular all over the West in the period from 1900 through 1920 and came to represent the California lifestyle. These houses built of simple redwood construction are found in many parts of the Bay Area, particularly in the Berkeley Hills.
The most elaborate variations are included in the work of the architects Charles and Henry Greene (1868-1957 and 1870-1954). They created the ultimate Arts and Crafts houses, designing every aspect of both the interior and the exterior, from the furniture and textiles to the lighting fixtures.
Of all the artist craftsmen working in the Bay Area, the metalworker Dirk van Erp (1860-1933) is the most famous. His hand hammered copper and mica lamps have become synonymous with the whole Arts and Crafts Movement in the United States. The paintings and decorative work of the artists Lucia and Arthur Mathews (1875-1945 and 1860-1945) evoked California and its landscape.
The Mathews’ picture frames, lamps and painted furniture, sold in their furniture shop from 1906 to 1920, were often painted in bright colors with Californian trees, poppies and Arcadian scenes. Pottery, often seen as the most typical product of the Arts and Crafts Movement, was made in the Bay Area at the Arequipa Pottery.
The de Young is at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden drive. For information, 415-750-3614 or www.thinker.org.
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