Arts and Crafts Movement

The Arts and Crafts Movement refers to the loosely-linked group of craftsmen, artists, designers and architects who aimed to raise the status of the applied arts to that of the fine arts. Largely inspired by William Morris, other key artists in the movement included William de Morgan, Henry Holiday, Walter Crane, the architect and designer Philip Webb and Christopher Whall, and the ceramic artist W. J. Neatby. Alexander Fisher was the leading Arts and Crafts enameller.

There were several organisations promoting Arts and Crafts in the 1880s and 1890s. Perhaps the earliest was the Century Guild, set up by A. H. Mackmurdo, Selwyn Image and H. P. Horne. But the most important of these societies were the Art Workers' Guild, which started in 1884, and the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, founded in 1888 with Walter Crane as its first President. Also noteworthy were the Home Arts and Industries Association (started in 1884) with a bias towards the rural, and the Guild and School of Handicraft founded in 1888 by C. R. Ashbee. The Studio was the vigorous promoter of the movement at that time. The other magazines wavered between approval and disapproval; for example the Magazine of Art commented on an early show by the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society that ‘over all there hovers an air of galvanised mediaevalism; the tendency is rather to resuscitate or imitate rather than originate’.

Arts and Crafts ideas have undergone periodic revivals ever since, and with connotations of nature, intrinsic worth, individuality and production on a human scale, seems particularly relevant today.

There are many Arts and Crafts-style modern objects in innumerable shops all over the place. To see the originals, the best places in London are the Victoria and Albert Museum and the William Morris Gallery.

Top of page

Background information

Home