. 'Mackmurdo consistently recognises proportion to be the fundamental element of beauty'.
A. H. Mackmurdo was born in London, and studied to become an architect under James Brooks, a designer of Anglican churches. In Oxford, Mackmurdo attended drawing classes by John Ruskin, afterwards becoming a keen advocate of Ruskin's ideas. He visited Italy with the great critic, and made further visits there on his own, drawing classical and Renaissance buildings. He returned to England with a keenness on Rennaissance architecture and art, and it was this admiration for the Renaissance that led to his belief in the unity of the arts, and the conviction that there should be no distinction between the artist and the craftsman.
Mackmurdo was active in the setting up of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1877, and this involvement lead to him meeting William Morris.
In 1882, together with his student Herbert P Horne, and the artist Selwyn Image, Mackmurdo founded the Century Guild, to produce work to arts and crafts designs. The principal designers were Macmurdo himself and Horne - Selwyn Image was close to the Guild but not a formal member. The Guild's journal - the Hobby Horse - was initially designed by Mackmurdo.
Mackmurdo was later involved with another key arts and crafts figure - Walter Crane - in founding the National Association for Advancement of Art and its Application to Industry.
As his fortunes changed, Macmurdo moved between art and architecture. So although he was important in giving a general push to the arts and crafts movement, his surviving oeuvre is quite small.
Mackmurdo's work can be seen at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, where he left a bequest containing wallpaper designs, metalwork, furniture and printed works, and in Colchester, where there are a few pieces of metalwork designed by him and a study of angels, part of a gift he made to the art gallery there.
Top of page
Illustration // Other artists