Arts & Crafts in the V&A CollectionsEmerging in Britain in the late nineteenth century, Arts & Crafts was quickly taken up and adapted in America and Europe, until it reached its final manifestation as the Mingei (Folk Crafts) movement in early twentieth century Japan. Below is a selection of Arts & Crafts objects from the V&A Collections.
Pongee silk with smocking and machine-made lace, brass hooks and silk eyes, silk twill and boned, lined with cotton, trimmed and embroidered
Museum no. T.17-1985
Dress reform was a trend that ran parallel with the Arts and Crafts Movement. In an effort to free women from corsetry, it advocated a radically new approach to dress. The clothes were homemade or produced in commercial studios. They used natural and artistic materials and often included hand-embroidered decoration inspired by the countryside and wild or garden flowers. Smocking was sometimes a feature of dresses designed and sold by Liberty's. It too evoked an imaginary rural simplicity.
Table and Chair for a Music Room
Richard Riemerschmid (designed)
Walnut and leather upholstery
Given by the maker
Museum no. Circ.859-1956
Richard Riemerschmid (designed)
Vereinigte Werkstatten fur Kunst und Handwerk GMBH(maker)
Museum no. W.1-1990
The table and chair were part of a Music Room that Riemerschmid designed for the group exhibitions of the United Workshops for Art in Handicraft (Vereinigte Werkstatten fur Kunst im Handwerk). He set out to express artistic individuality as well as function. These pieces, distinguished by their simplified construction, plain oak and thin, undecorated surfaces, are among his finest work.
Leaping Fish Vase
Stoneware, white glaze with painting in brown
Museum no. CIRC.144-1931
This vase is a classic work in the style of Chinese Song-period ceramics, a main source of inspiration in Leach's work. Leach had studied drawing and etching at the Slade and London Schools of Art before travelling to Japan in 1909, where he learned to be a potter. In Japan he met Yanagi Setsu and Tomimoto Kenkichi, and became a key member of the Mingei movement.
Peasant Girl Carrying a Jar, Quimperlé
Oil on canvas
Bequeathed by Henry Louis Florence
Museum no. P.54-1917
George Clausen was one of a number of designers, artists and architects who were disenchanted with the Royal Academy. He was active in early Arts and Crafts circles and a founder member of the New English Art Club, which looked to France for inspiration. This intensely real portrait of peasant life is resonant of Arts and Crafts themes.
End View of the Pulpit in the church of San Ambrogio, Milan
Pencil with light washes of colour
Museum no. 226-1887
John Ruskin’s interpretation of medieval Gothic architecture and his belief in the moral value of handwork were an essential influence on the Arts and Crafts Movement. He made this sketch of a Venetian Gothic building in preparation for The Stones of Venice (1851–3). This became a key text for Morris and his followers.
Details of covering to a well for Red House
Philip Speakman Webb
Pencil, pen, ink and water colour on pape
Presented by Lady Burne-Jones
Museum no. E.64-1916
Red House was a project that shaped the Arts and Crafts Movement. It was designed for William Morris, as a home in which he could pursue an ideal of community life and collaborative work, and led to the founding of Morris’s own design company. In 1861, unable to find suitable furnishings for Red House, he set up Morris & Co.
Wallpaper and Frieze
Panel of 'La Margarete' wallpaper with a section of 'Alcestis' wallpaper frieze
about 1876 - 1900
Colour prints from wood blocks, on paper
Given by the Wallpaper Manufacturers Ltd
Museum no. E.1837-1934
Walter Crane was one of the leading figures of the Arts and Crafts Movement. He campaigned on behalf of the craftsman and believed that the decorative arts should be more widely represented. He produced commercial designs in several different media, including textiles, ceramics and wallpaper, but was also a painter and book illustrator.
William Morris, Philip Speakman Webb, John Henry Dearle
Tapestry woven wool and silk on a cotton warp
Purchased with the assistance of The Art Fund
Museum no. T.111-1926
William Morris placed great value on work and the joy of craftsmanship. His belief in the natural beauty of materials led him to learn and revive traditional skills such as natural dyeing, hand-block printing and tapestry weaving. This design is one of Morris & Co.’s most successful compositions.
Hand woven and embroidered linen
Given by Mr Joseph King
Museum no. T.218-1953
In 1894 Godfrey Blount helped set up a community in Surrey for 'the double pleasure of lovely surroundings and happy work'. Known as the Haslemere Peasant Industries, his workshops trained local women in weaving and embroidery techniques. This panel represents a biblical story in which spies were sent to Canaan to look for the Promised Land and came back laden with huge grapes.
Georgie Cave Gaskin
Enamelled silver set with pearls
Given by Mrs Emmeline H. Cadbury
Museum no. CIRC.359-1958
Arthur and Georgie Gaskin were applauded in Arts and Crafts circles for providing a handmade alternative to the commercial pieces made in Birmingham’s long-established Jewellery Quarter. They made this necklace for Emmeline Cadbury, whose family were prominent patrons of Arts and Crafts and supporters of social reform in Birmingham.
William Arthur Smith Benson
Brass and copper
Museum no. M.37-1972
William Arthur Smith Benson set up a workshop in 1880 to produce well-made, simple copper and brass objects for the home. By 1895 he was employing several hundred people. He used mechanical batch-production processes and was more ‘an engineer than a hand-worker’. Yet, he was also a founder member of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society.
Slab glass with painted and stained details
Museum np. C.87-1978
Of all the Arts and Crafts stained glass artists, Christopher Whall was perhaps the most influential. He advocated a style of stained glass that related to its architectural surroundings and collaborated on commissions with leading architects. Like Whall, many were active in the Art Workers Guild and the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society.