Antiques A-Z: Arts & Crafts

1st July 2013

The Arts & Crafts movement dates back to the 19th Century and was inspired by the writings of John Ruskin. Ruskin was a socialist and staunch critic of Victorian times. Incredibly influential, he is credited with inspiring artist and writer William Morris and architect and designer Charles Voysey to start the Arts & Crafts movement.

The founding principles of the movement were the rejection of poor quality, mass produced and over-ornamented Victorian furnishings and artifacts. They favoured a return to medieval standards of craftsmanship where the artifact reflected the skills of the maker not the machine. Styles were simpler and cleaner.

The movement originated in the UK but spread to Europe and North America and its influences can be seen in architecture, furniture, ceramics, glass, metalwork, jewellery, sculpture and print. It continued until the 1930s and played a role in founding Bauhaus and Modernism.

We recently sold a lovely example of a Victorian birds eye maple cabinet by William Watt.

Style notes:

  • Handmade items
  • Simple forms with little ornamentation
  • Copper and pewter - often with a hammered finish
  • Stylized flowers
  • Biblical or literary figures
  • Upside down hearts and celtic motifs

Names to note in the auction rooms:

  • John Ruskin
  • William Morris
  • Charles Voysey
  • Roseville
  • Rookwood
  • Roycroft
  • Weller
  • Gustav Stickley
  • Charles Rennie Mackintosh


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