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Indusrial Revolution/Arts & Crafts

The Industrial Revolution first began in England, and occurred between 1760 and 1840. It is said that this was more than just a period, this revolution was a radical process of social and economic change.

Some of the inventions included;
• Steam Engine
• Electricity
• Gasoline fueled engines
• Factory system for machine manufacturing
• Materials including Iron and Steel

Critics of the new industrial age said there was a loss of interest in human needs and values and a preoccupation with material goods.

An area specific to graphic design that became a casualty of the Industrial Revolution was book design. There was one man who made the exception, William Pickering (1796-1854) he insisted that the quality of the books he designed be of quality. Pickering played a major role in the separation of graphic design and print production, Pickering’s books were produced by printers who allowed Pickering to be in close supervision.


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One of the most significant books that Pickering designed was Oliver Byrne’s, “The Elements of Euclid.” Diagrams in this book were printed in brilliant primary colors, and was a landmark in book design.

In 1851 there was an exhibition at the Crystal Palace to view all the remarkable new products. Yet many of the visitors found that the most remarkable revelation was the poor aesthetic quality of virtually all the products.

The influential artist and critic John Ruskin felt it was his moral obligation to change this lack of  aesthetic quality and began writing his philosophy.

Good friend and colleague, William Morris became enthusiastic about Ruskin’s philosophies, and this helped fuel the start of the Arts and Crafts movement.

William Morris (1834-1896) was an architect, artist, poet and social critic. Morris is called the “Father of Arts and Crafts.”

Morris created a system where artists, craftsmen, and designers would take direct responsibility for their creations, bringing pride back into the work.

Morris had a house designed and built for him called the Red House, this house was designed by the architect Phillip Webb. Because Morris was dissatisfied with his choices when furnishing his house, he ended up designing and supervising the execution of furniture, stained glass, tiling, and tapestries for the Red House. With this experience, Morris established an art decorating firm with six of his friends in 1861 called Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Company. The firm reorganized in 1875 as Morris and Company, with Morris as the sole owner.

The architect, Arthur Mackmurdo (1851-1942), met Morris and was inspired both by his works and by his ideas. In 1882 Mackmurdo along with a group of artists and designers established the Century Guild. This group included designer/illustrator Selwyn Image (1849-1930) and designer/writer Herbert Horne (1864-1916). The goal of the Century Guild was to elevate the design arts to “their rightful place beside painting and sculpture.”

This group brought the influence of Renaissance and Japanese design ideas into their own work. Their work being called the first link between the Arts & Crafts movement and Art Nouveau.

The Hobby Horse publication was created by the Century Guild to proclaim their philosophy and goals. With this publication, the group wanted to set high standards in design, using high quality materials and quality workmanship in the printing.

The Century Guild disbanded in 1888, so the individuals could pursue their own work.


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The Art Workers Guild was formed in 1884, to work for the revival of craft. Morris became involved with the group along with the artists/designers Walter Crane and Emery Walker.

Morris became involved in book design along with designing typefaces. His three typefaces are; Golden, Troy and Chaucer. The typefounding of Golden influenced Morris to create his second company called Kelmscott Press in 1890. This press was committed to recapturing the beauty in book, turning the book into an art form. Kelmscott Press remained open until 1898, two years after Morris died at the age of 62.

Gustav Stickley is given credit for taking the Arts & Crafts style and giving it an American twist.

Stickley’s work is best known for its functional, straight-line furniture that we now call Mission or Craftsman. He had a furniture plant in Syracuse, New York. For thirteen years Stickley also published and designed the periodical, “The Craftsman,” which was dedicated to the teachings of Ruskin and Morris.

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