The Arts and Crafts movement emerged in 19th-century England in response to the hardships imposed on workers under a growing factory system. Critics denounced the degrading conditions that labor endured as well as the shoddy quality of goods flooding the market. Calling for a revival of handicraft, the movement’s leaders argued that handcrafted wares were morally superior because of the way they were created and also more beautiful. Inspired by the Middle Ages, Arts and Crafts architects embraced the Gothic revival, joining craftsmen, often in guilds, to ornament and furnish churches, houses, and other buildings. Over time, leaders in the movement encouraged revivals of national and regional traditions, the use of local materials, and simple designs. Preservation of historic buildings also was championed. The Arts and Crafts movement has spawned hundreds of books, some academic and many directed to the popular market. To confuse matters for the serious researcher, more than a few coffee table books have been written by experts and should be consulted. Another challenge is the fact that many publications on the Arts and Crafts movement integrate studies of architecture, interior design, and the decorative arts. These studies are worth exploring as many Arts and Crafts architects were engaged in many manifestations of design, ranging from tile and stained glass to pottery and printing. Yet another challenge is the lack of clarity about what is considered Arts and Crafts architecture. The views promulgated by England’s William Morris and his circle form an accepted basis for the movement. Its flowering in Great Britain is central to the literature, while the transmission of Arts and Crafts ideas to the United States has long been recognized. The influence of Arts and Crafts concepts to movements on the Continent, such as the Viennese Secession and Art Nouveau, is examined in some studies; however, architectural historians usually treat these developments as distinctive and do not position them directly under the Arts and Crafts umbrella. Most authors on American Arts and Crafts architecture have examined particular regions and specific architects. Others have written about various Arts and Crafts styles that took hold at the turn of the 20th century. A few writers have documented the craftsmen who collaborated with the Arts and Crafts architects while others have explored Arts and Crafts themes in garden design.
The standard overviews that introduce the architecture of the Arts and Crafts movement are Davey 1995 and Cumming and Kaplan 2002. Davey writes solely about architecture and at length about Great Britain whereas Cumming and Kaplan address the diversity of the movement, including building design and the crafts, and their book is the better source for information about American architecture. A guidebook by Massey and Maxwell 1998 is unassuming, yet unlike any other source, it documents Arts and Crafts buildings across the United States. Kaplan 1987 is an important exhibition catalogue on the American movement, with essays on architecture and information about craftsmen who specialized in architectural ornament. Two exhibition catalogues, one by Kaplan 2004 and another by Livingstone and Parry 2005, show the extent to which Arts and Crafts ideas influenced designers, including architects, throughout Europe and as far as Japan. Anscombe 1991 is not interpretive but provides useful information.
Anscombe, Isabelle. Arts and Crafts Style. New York: Rizzoli, 1991.
Accessible and reliable, this well-illustrated volume is directed to the popular market. The history of the movement in Great Britain and the United States is broken into topics that are covered in a few pages each. Although light on architecture, the book presents a context of the movement and includes information about relevant decorative arts such as stained glass and tile.
Cumming, Elizabeth, and Wendy Kaplan. The Arts and Crafts Movement. Rev. ed. London: Thames and Hudson, 2002.
The first book to read for an introduction to the movement. Clear, concise, and authoritative, it includes in-depth chapters on Arts and Crafts architecture in Great Britain and the United States. The influence of the movement on the Continent also is presented. Photos are small and mostly black and white. Originally published in 1991.
Davey, Peter. Arts and Crafts Architecture. London: Phaidon, 1995.
The most important book on Arts and Crafts architecture even though the one chapter devoted to American architecture is dated and limited to a few individuals. Handsomely produced and illustrated, the text is a pleasure to read and insightful, mainly about developments in Great Britain. Short biographies of lesser-known architects are useful as are chapters on garden design and planning. Originally published in 1980 as Architecture of the Arts and Crafts Movement (New York: Rizzoli).
Kaplan, Wendy. “The Art That Is Life”: The Arts and Crafts Movement in America, 1875–1920. Ex. cat. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston: Little, Brown, 1987.
Exclusively about the American movement, the authors present a wide variety of regional manifestations. Includes informative essays on Arts and Crafts architecture and the Arts and Crafts home, touching on decoration and furnishings. Catalogue entries provide profiles about craftsmen who designed architectural ornament, including metalwork and stained glass.
Kaplan, Wendy. The Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe and America, 1880–1920: Design for the Modern World. Ex. cat. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2004.
A major exhibition catalogue with eight essays by leading scholars, each focusing on a different country or related nations. In addition to the United Kingdom and the United States, the authors consider Germany, Austria, Hungary, Scandinavia, Belgium, and France. Architecture is not addressed in any depth, but many examples of decorative arts were designed by architects. Includes contributions by Alan Crawford and others.
Livingstone, Karen, and Linda Parry, eds. International Arts and Crafts. Ex. cat. Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V&A Publications, 2005.
Twenty-seven short, authoritative essays, covering the origins of the movement in Britain, the spread of Arts and Crafts ideas to the United States, and their influence throughout Europe and as far as Japan. One essay is devoted to British architecture and gardens. Other essays treat the architecture of the American Midwest and California. Architects’ contributions to the movement in other countries are discussed to a lesser extent.
Massey, James, and Shirley Maxwell. Arts and Crafts Design in America: A State-by-State Guide. San Francisco: Chronicle, 1998.
A national survey, unmatched by any other book, on the range of Arts and Crafts buildings in the United States with short entries on thirty-five states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The variety of regional responses to the movement is well illustrated, and less well-known architects receive attention. The authors document buildings designed by women such as Marion Mahony, Julia Morgan, and Mary Colter.
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