What Are The Characteristics Of The Arts And Crafts Movement?

Arts & Crafts Movement

During the arts and crafts movement, there was a lot of change and different artistic movements taking place. For this reason, it can be confusing as to what are the characteristics of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

The Arts and Craft Movement started in Britain and then swept over Europe and the United States. The movement started to become both popular and very influential in the late 19th century and changed how many artists around the world viewed their art. It also changed how artists saw the design of not just their artwork but also buildings, fabrics, wallpaper, parks, cities, and objects in their homes and offices.

The Vision of The Holy Grail Tapestry by William Morris
The Vision of The Holy Grail Tapestry by William Morris

About the Arts and Crafts Movement

The Arts and Crafts movement was an international art trend in the decorative and fine arts that began in Britain and then swept over Europe and America. The time period of the movement was from about 1880 to 1920. It also emerged in Japan in the 1920s under what is known as the Mingei movement.

Some of the key personalities who inspired the Arts and Craft Movement:

  • William Morris (1834-1896) – Morris is perhaps one of the most influential people for the arts and crafts movement. He was a British textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, painter, and social activist. He was a major contributor to the revival of the traditional British textile arts and textile production methods. He played a significant role in the early socialist movement in Britain.
  • Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852) – Pugin was an English architect, designer, artist, and critic who is remembered for his Gothic revival style of architecture. He is known for having designed the interior of the Palace of Westminster in Westminster London. He is the architect of the Elizabeth bell tower that houses the iconic Big Ben bell.
  • John Ruskin (1819 – 1900) – Ruskin was a leading art critic, art patron, draftsman ad watercolorist. He was a prominent social thinker and philanthropist of his day. He wrote Modern painters, an essay that was in defense of the painter J.M. W. Turner in which he argued that the principal work of an artist was to be true to nature. He championed the Pre-Raphaelite movement that was influenced by his ideas. He founded the Guild of St George, a charitable education trust that is still active today.

The Arts and Craft movement started in Britain, then spread to the British Isles, and then on to Europe and America. It was considered a reaction to the decorative arts movement of the time. The Arts and Crafts movement was about reforming the design and decoration of mid-19th century Britain.

There was an exhibition in Britain at Hyde Park called the Great Exhibition in 1851. It was considered one of the first World’s Fairs. The critique of the items that many of these reformers and thinkers saw at this exhibition helped drive the arts and crafts. The reformers felt the items they saw at the Great Exhibition were ornate, artificial, and ignorant of the quality of the materials they are were using them for.

E.C. Ralph in his book The Urban Modern Landscape: 1880 to the Present said this of William Morris and the Arts and Craft Movement:

“William Morris, for instance, pleaded for simplicity of designs, a cleaning out of all sham, waste and self indulgence, especially in decorative arts. He thought that this might be achieved by combining the skills of artists and craftsmen to create a simple yet popular art; practicing as he preached he designed and produced wallpapers and fabrics and established a hand printing press. These practical demonstration soon acquired a following known as the Arts and Crafts Movement which sought to revive decorative honesty and sound workmanship in manufacturing and building.”

E.C. Ralph

This movement started to become both popular and very influential and changed how many artists around the world viewed their art.

In summing up his feeling of art and design William Morris said

“Apart from the desire to produce beautiful things, the leading passion of my life has been and is a hatred of modern civilization.”

William Morris

The Arts and Crafts Movement was not linked just to the arts; it also had political views. Many of the movement’s important figures were also part of the early Socialist movement and socialist thinking in Britain.

This is why the Arts and Craft Movement covers such a broad spectrum of designs and ideas. It was not just a design movement but also a political movement and philosophy. It was a movement that would encompass many kinds of styles.

In speaking of this  Stephanie Przybylek in her Humanities Course said:

“Because the Arts and Crafts Movement was as much about a reform philosophy as it was a specific type of design, there isn’t a single set of unifying traits that identify Arts and Crafts works.”

 Stephanie Przybylek

The Characteristics of the Arts and Crafts Movement

Since there is no single set of unifying traits that can characterize the Arts and Crafts movement, it was a movement that changed the way that people saw a design for artwork, buildings, fabrics, wallpaper, parks, cities, and objects in their homes and offices. It was a movement that swept over the entire world.

Here are the Characteristics of the Arts and Crafts Movement:

  • The belief that beautiful and well-made objects and things should surround a person.
  • Craftsmanship should stress the inherent natural beauty of the materials being used.
  • Use of high-quality materials but not overly-complicated designs.
  • The Arts and Crafts movement borrowed inspirations from a variety of places. One was from medieval art, especially the Gothic and Celtic. Japanese art was also a focus for its linear quality and the flattened sense of space and form. Islamic art inspired the movement with its ornament and patterned surfaces.
  • The Arts and Crafts Movement received inspiration in nature and focused on nature but in a simplified and stylized way.
  • Patterns tended to be rectilinear or moving in a straight line or lines but could also include curved lines.
  • Took inspiration from nature in many patterns with stylizing and simplified flowers, vines, leaves, birds, insects, or animals.
  • Many of the colors used were natural tones, such as deep green, browns, rich reddish terra cottas, and similar earth tones.
  • Value simplicity, utility, and beauty in design, form, and function.
  • The Arts and Crafts movement also had the belief that the designer was the craftsman.

The Arts and Crafts Movement was a significant movement that influenced a lot of art, design, building, and city planning. You can still see the Arts and Craft Movement’s influence in arts, design, and architecture today.

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Anita Louise Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Louise Hummel. I am an artist and a blogger. I paint mainly oil paints. I love to paint women, animals (mainly dogs and cats), and abstracts. I use a lot of gold and silver leaf in my paintings. I also love to blog about anything to do with art, business, Procreate, and all the wonderful artists that inspire me.

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