Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Pattern for Arts & Crafts & for the 19C US Mission Style

William Morris (1834-1896) 1876 Pimpernel

I must admit; that I have been feeling the need for a little order in my life, the kind of visual order offered by pattern. The most famous 19C English pattern & craft devotee was William Morris (1834-1896), who believed that art & society are inextricably linked. 

The Arts & Crafts movement initially developed in England during the latter half of the 19C. Subsequently this style was taken up by American designers, with somewhat different results. In the United States, the Arts & Crafts style was also known as Mission style. This movement, which challenged the tastes of the Victorian era, was inspired by the social reform concerns of thinkers such as Walter Crane & John Ruskin, together with the ideals of reformer & designer, William Morris.

Art for Morris meant not only the fine arts of painting & sculpture but "that great body of art by means of which men have at all times ... striven to beautify the familiar matter of everyday life."
William Morris (1834-1896) 1885 Fritillary

He believed that such art arose from a basic human instinct to create, & was "a joy to the maker & user alike" which satisfied personal creative talent & enriched society as a whole.

William Morris (1834-1896) 1873 Acanthus Wallpaper

But the traditions upon which such art rested - the skills of the artist-craftsman, which Morris saw exemplified in medieval workshop practice & the guild system - had been eroded.

William Morris (1834-1896) 1874 Larkspur Wallpaper, polychrome version

Since the Renaissance, the concept of the artist as a unique & special genius had led to a diminution in status of the craftsman & an inevitable division between the fine & decorative arts.

William Morris (1834-1896) 1881 St. James
This distinction had a particularly adverse effect on applied art, especially during the 18th-century, when the rise of an affluent middle class led to an increased demand for furniture & furnishings. In 1861, William Morris founded the decorative arts firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co to undertake carving, stained glass, metal-work, paper-hangings, chintzes (printed fabrics), & carpets.

William Morris (1834-1896) 1876 Chrysanthemum Wallpaper
Morris revived old crafts & traditions, often immersing himself in historical texts or seeking out craftsmen from whom he could learn dying arts. The company's offerings soon extended to include, besides painted windows and mural decoration; furniture; metal & glass wares; cloth & paper wall-hangings; embroideries; jewelry; woven & knotted carpets; silk damasks; & tapestries.