ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History   /  book reviews, articles


International Arts and Crafts, edited by Karen Livingstone and Linda Parry, V&A Publications, London 2005, 368 p., 320 colour plates, 40 black and white illustrations, text in English.
ISBN 1 85177 446 7.
Arts and Crafts Textiles, by Linda Parry, p. 218 - 223.

Book published to coincide with the exhibition International Arts and Crafts, Victoria and Albert Museum, 17 March - 24 July 2005

  The exhibition accompanying this book will travel from London to
- the Indianapolis Museum of Art:
27 September 2005 - 22 January 2006 and
- the Museum of Fine Arts, San Francisco,
18 March - 18 June 2006
both of which will be opening magnificent new buldings in time to host he V&A exhibition.

Frida Hansen, Danaids' Jar, tapestry. Wool.
Norway, 1914,. Designed and woven by Frida Hansen. Private Collection

  The first part one of the book deals with the development of Arts and Crafts in Britain, whereas part two is dedicated to America, part three to Europa and part four to Japan,

The introduction chapter of the book is written by Linda Parry and Karen Livingstone. These authors give in this first chapter a survey of Arts and Crafts as a movement.

Today, Arts and Crafts describe the process of handmaking or decorating objects on a semi- or completely amateur basis. But in the late 19th and early 20th c. this was different. The movement was more professionally and commercially based and took its name from the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, founded in London in 1887. The movement also included a number of developments in different parts of the world.

The authors also point to the differences to the other major development in Europe - to Art Nouveau. These two movements even can be described as antithesis of each other, which can be noted in the geographical spread, in the physical and aestethic nature of the work produced, as in the ideas behind each movement.

  Artists of the original London Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society were demanding an improvement in the design and manufacture of the decorative arts in Victiorian Britain. This was first initiated by Henry Cole in the 1850s. The authors then explain the influence of John Ruskin (1819-1900) and the way, William Morris (1834-96) took over. Morris was by 1887 an internationally renowned and commercially successful designer and manufacturer.

Production did not rely exclusively on hand craftmanship, many followers were equally receptive to a careful and controlled use of the machine, as Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) and the Deutsche Werkbund in Germany were later to advocate.
Education became an important vehicle with which to spread Arts and Crafts ideas and to teach specific skills

British work were exhibited at various international exhibitions, and a number of widely circulated European magazines covered a great deal of this work. The most widely read was the Studio, published in London, the French Art et Décoration, the German Moderner Stil, and Dekorative Kunst, the Austrian Kunst und Kunsthandwerk.
The Craftsman
published in America also included extensive cover of development abroad.


Pair of embroidered pannels,
Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, 1902,
Glasgow School of Art


Embroidered velvet, Britain or France,
c. 1900. V&A: T.49-1962

  The authors in their introduction also consider the development in America and give a number of reasons, why Arts and Crafts ideas were more roundly embraced there than in Britain.

The new Arts and Crafts Movement in Central Europe, Scandinavia and Russia was characterized by a revival and development of indigenous techniques and traditional pattern and forms. The influence of Germany is important, as German translations of texts by Morris and Crane were widely read in countries such as Sweden and Norway, which both had strong connections with Germany. In Holland as well the theoretical principles of the movement were derived among others from German sources.
The authors also deal with the Wiener Werkstätte in Austria who was highly motivated in keeping abreast of cosmopolitan tastes and fashions.

  Germany's espousal of Arts and Crafts was one of the most long-lasting developments of all. It also proved to be an intermediary for British Arts and Crafts ideas across Europe and into Japan.

The development in Japan - the Mingei (Folk Crafts) movement from 1926 to 1945, concludes this introductory survey.
The ideologies of the Mingei movement, which found beauty in everyday objects (one of the main characteristics of Arts and Crafts throughout the world), were channelled through the founding of museums, the practice of collecting, the publication of journals and manifestos, the formation of craft associations, and through exhibition and display.
In Japan the concept of Mingei and the importance of crafts remains central to its sence of place, while elsewhere crafts also continue to thrive.

  Chapter 16, about Arts and Crafts Textiles
by Linda Parry, page 218 - 223

The author describes textiles as vital part of the Arts and Crafts home. Contrary to the views of many then and now, textiles of this movement were not all handmade nor was the machine excluded from manufacture. A number of printing and weaving companies were opening during the early development.
Morris is seen the guiding father of the movement, but it is the textiles made after his death in 1896 that are characteristic. The success was achieved by the appropriate selection of technique and by balancing this with the design. Many techniques were newly evolved but often based on traditions from the past.

Professional women designers were working in the early years of the 20th century, like: Phoebe Traquair (1852-1936), Margaret Macdonald (1865-1933), Jessie Newbery (1864-1948).


Traditional techniques helped to emphasize national identity at a time of political upheaval. Tapestry weaving became particularly popular. It has been one of the most popular traditional art forms of Norway and Sweden. Artists were: Frida Hansen (1855-1931), Gerhard Munthe (1849-1929). It was widely taught in leading art schools throughout Europe: The Kunstgewerbeschule in Scherrebek with its leading designer Otto Eckmann (1852-1902).

Eastern techniques used to apply surface pattern to cloth, such as discharge and resist also became popular with European Arts and Crafts designers. The Dutch artist Chris Lebeau (1878-1945) was famous by his screens.
Mingei artists revived traditional Japanese techniques such as bingata, a form of resist dying.

  Chapter 16, about Dress
by Lou Taylor, page 224 - 227

Arts and Crafts dress was characterized by individually made, simple garments, which drew on a number of influences, yet all featured soft fabrics and hand-crafted techniques, even when made in commercial studios such as Liberty's, the Isabella workshops in Hungary or the Wiener Werkstätte.

'Simple Life' styles from the mid-1880s were based on an imaginary English rural simplicity, using plain grounds decorated with modest embroidery. Inspriration was taken from wild or garden flowers.

From 1880 to 1914 'reform' and national identity dress became increasingly important and fundamentally


significant across many areas of Europe. This dress was continued to be worn even after the First World War.

In other adaptions peasant decoration was modernized to create new forms of national dress. Peasant decoration also was produced by professional designers and applied to Arts and Crafts or fashionable dress.

Paris couture salons such as Worth and Doucet were influenced by these developments as well and hand embroidery was applied by specialist workshops such as Maison Lesage.

  Press release:

The world we live in today owes a great deal to the Arts and Crafts Movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the subject of this ground-breaking and beautifully illustrated book. It was a radical movement; indeed there was a missionary zeal to the pioneers of Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain, who included William Morris, C.R. Ashbee and Walter Crane. Influenced by the ideas of John Ruskin, and concerned at the effects of industrial manufacture on standards of design and its debilitating social consequences, they advocated a return to a simpler way of life, a revival of traditional handicrafts and techniques, and an appreciation of the 'beauty in everyday things'.

These idealistic principles were taken up first in America and Europe, though adapted to each country's own cultural climate. In America, stilll a relatively young nation, Arts and Crafts became the first home-grown artistic movement and swept figures of the calibre of Frank Lloyd Wright and Gustav Stickley into its orbit, while in Europe it was to have a lasting effect on design and the Modern

  Movement. Its last great sphere of influence was Japan, from 1926 to 1945, where it flourished as the Mingei (Folk Crafts) movement. This fusion of Japanese rural folk traditions with a radical, urban modern aesthetic counted among its leaders the potters Hamada Shoji and the Englishman Bernard Leach, who, in turn, brougth the Arts and Crafts Movement full circle through their influence abroad. The contemporary craft movement in the West owes a profound debt to these artist-craftsmen from the East, and to the sources of their inspitiation.

Those sources are the subject of this magisterial study, which traces the complexity of the Arts and Crafts Movement through the decades and across the globe. Written by experts in each field, it interweaves the general with the particular: the overarching ideology and its various strands with the ways in which it manifested itself in different regions and cultural traditions. Lavishly illustrated, extensively researched and published to coincide with a major exhibition at the V&A in London, this book presents a compelling reassessment of the Arts and Crafts Movement, and an invaluable visual record of an ever-popular era of design.


home  content Last revised April 10 , 2005

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