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page "History of Firms Associated
With The Arts & Crafts Movement" and answer the
yours an Arts and Crafts home?" by completing our
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House, a House with Arts and Crafts Details and Styling, or
an Arts and Crafts Period House.
'On the night of October 16th 1834, the citizens of
London were treated to a magnificent spectacle. The Old
palace of Westminster was irrecoverably in flames. After
the usual bewilderment a parliamentary committee was appointed
to consider the question of rebuilding; and in the following
June they announced a competition for a new design. The
site was to be that of the old Palace; the style Gothic
or Elizabethan. The most important building in England was
to be Gothic'.
Kenneth Clarke, The Gothic Revival.
'On the night of October 16th 1834, Mr. Charles Barry, returning
to London on the Brighton Coach, saw on the horizon in font
of him a great red glare. It was the introduction to an opportunity
such as befalls few architects. The Palace of Westminster
was being destroyed by fire'. Trappes-Lomax, Pugin.
'To his contemporaries and immediate successors Pugin's significance
was self-evident. Burges described him as 'that wonderful
man', and Gilbert Scott wrote: 'I did not know Pugin, but
his image in my imagination was lie my guardian angel, and
I often dreamed I knew him
..I was awakened from my slumbers
by the thunder of Pugin's writings.' Owen Jones, Christopher
Dresser, William Morris, Philip Webb, Richard Norman Shaw
- all the leaders of stylistic change in the half century
following Pugin's death in 1852 - publicly acknowledged his
primacy. Writing in 1904 Hermann Muthesius confirmed that
'Pugin's work stands supreme
..he combined inexhaustible
imaginative power with thorough knowledge of the medieval
repertoire of forms, so that it was child's play to him to
find forms for every sort of commission' Jeremy Cooper, Victorian
and Edwardian Furniture and Interiors.
Pugin was a man of precocious talent and prodigious originality.
His short life is a catalogue of astonishing achievement.
As an architect he designed cathedrals, churches, colleges,
convents, and a wide range of domestic buildings, revolutionary
structures that established Gothic as the national style for
England by linking it firmly to its medieval roots. His books
made his design principles and vision of a new Gothic world
accessible to a wide audience. In his Medieval Court at the
Great Exhibition, held in 1851 he worked closely with leading
industrialists to make Gothic a truly universal style.
'I feel an irresistible desire to wander, and go to Japan,
where I will pass my youth, sitting under an almond tree,
drinking amber tea out of a blue cup, and looking at a landscape
Letter from Oscar Wilde, 1882
Originating from the Greek, aesthetics is the name which
has been given since classical times to the study of beauty
and the nature of the beautiful. In the second half of the
nineteenth century, fuelled by the writings of Walter Pater
and Baudelaire and the art of the Pre-Raphaelites, British
poets, painters, designers and architects began to turn to
aesthetic concerns and to place more emphasis on ornament
and the past. The result was the Aesthetic Movement and a
new freedom in all aspects of the fine and decorative arts.
In architecture, the dogmatism of gothic gave way to the charm
of the Queen Anne. In interiors, heavy Victorian forms were
replaced by the lighter, fresher Japanese-inspired shapes
and in the graphic arts, innovative methods, coupled with
anew approach to form led to the revitalisation of illustration
and book design.
Believing beauty should permeate every sphere of life, the
Aesthetes' rallying cry was 'Art for Art's sake'. Oscar Wilde,
one of the movements most characteristic and charismatic members,
was heard to complain about the difficulty of 'living up to
one's blue and white china' and his flamboyant dress and lifestyle
made him one of the most widely known figures of the late
nineteenth century. Together with James McNeill Whistler,
Aubrey Beardsley and a host of other colourful figures, Wilde
felt very strongly about the elegance and richness and it
was this very coherence of philosophy that held the Aesthetic
Movement together and gave it lasting influence. From the
languid figures of Rossetti to the sunflowers of Wilde and
the flamboyance of Ellen Terry, Aesthetic motifs cannot be
An era of lofty concerns, this was also a time when the cult
of 'higher silliness' was indulged, when the sunflower and
the lily and the peacock's feather were objects of worship
and Wilde is said to have sat up all night talking to a primrose.
Lionel Lambourne 1996
ART AND CRAFTS
During the nineteenth century an awareness had developed
that national style reflected the moral values of a society:
if a society was unable to produce good design then the fault
lay in its ethical system - a nations art was a symptom of
its moral health. The arts and crafts movement combined this
feeling with its own social aims, finding a perfect symbolism
in the return to medievalism. Fine craftsmanship was never
in jeopardy, but the need for 'an English art for England',
culminating in the adoption of Gothic as the best national
idiom, gave the men of the arts and crafts movement, the majority
of them architects, the necessary representation of a popular
art and allowed them, in rejecting more traditional styles,
to bring back to the people whom their political aims supported.
Their furniture reflected in concrete form the way of life
of the craftsman, stressing the honesty of production with
structural features becoming often the focal point of the
decoration. 'Fitness for purpose' became an element of style,
and although the same principle was held by designers whose
work was machine made, in the arts and Crafts doctrine 'purpose'
was defined in relation to everyday life among the wood shavings,
and the smell of resin, in the silvershop or blacksmith's
and not to the world of industry, commerce and 'laisser-faire'.
Arts and Crafts, Anscombe and Gere.
The arts and crafts movement was, first and foremost, an
effort to reform the domestic environment. 'Have nothing in
your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to
be beautiful,' Morris advised. And design reformers obliged
by eliminating the superfluous and the unsightly from their
surroundings. They were single minded in their purpose, hoping
to improve living conditions, and, thereby, to strengthen
the character of the individual. But they differed in their
approach, as there was no clear-cut path to follow in achieving
their goal. Consequently, arts and crafts interiors vary greatly,
from minute detail to overall character. They are similar
in that all unite the useful with the beautiful. Yet they
are different, as each is a unique expression of a particular
set of influences, including designer, client, time period,
location and cultural milieu.