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Design for the Rest of Us 
 Early Modern Movements:  Part I
Aesthetic and Arts & Crafts 

I'm back from my intense immersion week in Brussels & Amsterdam.  I didn't learn French or Dutch but gained a greater respect for Gouda and Van Gogh.  I did see a bit of Art Nouveau but lots more Baroque. Taking one small step backwards from Art Nouveau are two earlier movements: Aesthetic and Arts & Crafts.  Part II, next issue will explore Art Nouveau in its many regional variations.


Hope you enjoy.  

Aesthetic and Arts & Crafts Movements  


The style associated with the reign of Queen Victoria that dominated much of the 19th c. was More is More. A byproduct of the Industrial Revolution was the dependence on mass-produced, machine-made goods and conspicuous consumption 
Several strains of modernism emerged in reaction to the machine and fussy imitations of historical style, including Aesthetic and Arts & Crafts.


The opening of Japan to trade by Admiral Perry in 1854 was a significant event. Japanese design, its simplicity and affinity to nature, greatly influenced many of the western designers. The Aesthetic Movement is sometimes referred to as Anglo-Japanese style.


The name Aesthetic for the movement came from Charles Locke Eastlake's 1868 book Hints on Household Taste. Eastlake favored the personal tradition of handcraft over the commercialism of home decoration. He used the term aesthetic to refer to a style of furnishings lighter in color, form, and carving with "honest" construction with no pretense of imitating antique pieces. Americans conveniently refer to the style as Eastlake. 

Herter Cabinet

The Herter Brothers in New York and Daniel Pabst in Philadelphia opened factories to produce these high-quality, crafted goods. An 

 important attendee at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 was the progressive English designer Christopher Dresser among the first of the independent designers to combine art with industry which resonated with American ideals.   


Arts & Crafts
The devotees were zealous in their rejection of the machine. The Utopian vision that well designed products would be available to a broad base was seldom realized. Because fine craftsmanship remained an expensive way to create quality products, the style could not successfully be employed on a massive scale. The leader was philosopher John Ruskin who believed that the evils of industrialization could be eradicated with a commitment to the handmade, expressed through the medieval guild system . 

His disciple William Morris took a more realistic approach which resulted in broader appeal. A factory owner, poet, writer, artist, and craftsman Morris was adept at many art forms, among them textiles, wall covering, and book design. A prominent style of his was the use of stylized natural motifs similar to those of medieval tapestries. Furniture was generally constructed of oak, with minimal carving. Joinery was proudly exposed. Seats were simply made of rush or covered with leather. 


Wm. Morris

By 1890 the Arts and Crafts Movement spread to the U.S. where various craft communities developed such as Roycroft. The most successful was that of Gustav Stickley. In 1901 he created the magazine The Craftsman to spread the word to smaller communities. His oak furniture designs were featured including the iconic reclining armchair, known as the Morris chair, his homage to William Morris. 

Architects Charles and Henry Greene of California designed exteriors and interiors, known as Shingle, or Bungalow, style, blending Japanese aesthetics and American practicality.  


The early work of architect Frank Lloyd Wright was known as Prairie style. Working for Louis Sullivan in Chicago Wright became entrenched in the concept of total environmental design, later known as organic architecture. Like many others Wright was greatly influenced by Japanese design after studying art there.  

FLW Oak Park


The colors of the Arts and Crafts accessories, including textiles, and ceramics are, soft, earthy reds and greens. Simple plant forms were executed, similar to Japanese ceramics. Work in copper and leaded stained glass, reminiscent of medieval craft, were also produced.

   Teco vase


Where the Americans differed from their English counterparts was the acceptance of the machine as a necessity to bring the finest in design to the average person.  


Next Issue:  Art Nouveau


   Upcoming Courses .2  CEUs
September 26, IIDEX Conference, Toronto, Canada  Psychology of Color
October 11, ASID DC Metro Chapter, Bethesda, MD
Susan J. Slotkis
Profiles - Personalized Interiors
For more information on interior design services,  consultations, and seminars visit  the website 
www.susanslotkis.comUntil the next time...