The Century Guild

The Century Guild, probably the first of the important late-19th century Arts and Crafts organisations, was started in 1882. The founder and guiding spirit was the designer and architect A. H. Mackmurdo, together with his friend Selwyn Image, and a former pupil, H. P. Horne. Mackmurdo and Horne became the principal designers for the Guild. Selwyn Image did not become a formal member, though he remained close to it, and was responsible for the cover design for the magazine of the Guild, the Hobby Horse, in its first 6 volumes.

The production of the Century Guild workshops included furniture and metalwork, wallpaper (entrusted to the firm Messrs. Jeffrey and Co. of Islington), enamelling, and textiles. Artists associated with the Century Guild included the artist Heywood Sumner, the potter William de Morgan, the enameller Clement Heaton, and Benjamin Creswick, a sculptor. Various others were fellow-travellers who, like Selwyn Image, kept close to the Guild without being members - Voysey was one such.

The mouthpiece of the Guild, the Hobby Horse, started in 1884, and by emphasising printing as a craft in its own right, became an inspiration both to William Morris in setting up his Kelmscott Press, and to others in what became the private press movement. The magazine was quarterly, and although it started very much as Mackmurdo's creation, from 1886 it was largely left to Horne to run.

The Century Guild lasted only a few years, but as the first of the Arts and Crafts organisations, had an importance far beyond its own productions. The artists involved carried on their work in the same spirit. In some ways, with its emphasis on natural forms in design, the Guild foreshadowed Art Nouveau a decade or so later.

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