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Arts and Crafts Movement now on

The Arts and Crafts movement is a British artistic style that originated in the United Kingdom around 1860 and developed until after the Victorian era, in 1910.

It concerns architecture, decorative arts (furniture, wallpaper, etc.), book illustration, painting and sculpture.

It is now considered as the movement that inspired the Art Nouveau style, born in France at the beginning of the 20th century. now created a new coloring gallery inspired by the Arts and Craft Movement, but before discovering it, take some time to understand the origin and specificities of this artistic style!

Birth of the Arts and Crafts movement

1848 is a year of revolution throughout Europe. The United Kingdom, in its desire to reign over the world, develops its colonies and destroys many natural environments to derive maximum benefit from the Industrial Revolution.

This Revolution does not really benefit the English people : hard working conditions and the standard of living of the workers which does not increase at the same rate as the economy. Intellectuals as well as artists react: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels publish the Manifesto of the Communist Party.

At the same time, in London, three students from the Royal Academy (William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti) question the artistic education they receive, which they consider paralysed by academic conformism. Indeed, this one is inspired by the Italian Renaissance, they think it’s time to move on !

To return to a sincere art, purged of mannerism, closer to nature, they take as a model the painting of the Italian and Flemish Primitives, prior to Raphael (1483 – 1520). They also draw their inspiration from national literature (Shakespeare, Keats, Browning…) as well as from the art of the Middle Ages.

Long before the impressionists, they paint in nature, when they are not in their common workshops. They also happen to pose for each other.

Thus in 1848, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was born, founded by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, James Collinson, the painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the sculptor Thomas Woolner and the art critics William Michael Rossetti and Frederick George Stephens.

Ophélie (Millais) – John Everett Millais – 1851-1852

Realism, absence of perspective, sense of detail and light tones and bright colors characterize their artistic creations.

They sometimes sign their creations with the initials PRB for Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, provoking the anger of a well-meaning United Kingdom who imagines behind these three letters a hidden meaning, whereas it is to stand out from the academic painters who sign RA for Royal Academy.

Their first exhibitions caused a scandal but were supported by the great art critic, writer and poet John Ruskin.

The split and the birth of the Arts and Crafts Movement

In 1854, the Pre-Raphaelites separated : their professional and personal differences were too great.

Through their protesting, democratic spirit, rejecting consumerism and the race for progress and mass production driven by the Industrial Revolution, they inspired artists like William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones.

Edward Burne-Jones – Adoration of Magi (Tapestry) – 1904, from a model created in 1886

They are desperate for the deplorable conditions of the working class and are very attached to traditional values. They do not believe in the societal progress their country promises, and reject productivism. Wishing to unify the decorative arts with the Fine Arts, they created the Arts and Crafts movement.

This movement is based on three principles, consistent with their thinking summarized above :

  • a craftsman can only be happy if he participates in each stage of the production of his product (from design to finishing)
  • to achieve beautiful works, it is necessary to work in a pleasant environment
  • art is not intended to be just admired in museums or in the homes of the elite, it must be found everywhere, even in functional everyday objects: “Art in everything, for everyone”
Arts and Craft furniture

Craftsmen must therefore master the entire production chain, working in workshops with simple and manual methods.

They must understand the strong link that unites the Fine Arts and the decorative arts, to quite simply… do beautiful things.

Moreover, this beauty must be democratized, it must not be reserved for an “elite”.

Concerning Arts & Crafts furniture, artists use pieces that have small and thin lines. They include accents such as carvings, inlay work, curved boards, and other decorative details.

See for example this beautiful furniture, seen during an exhibition at the Roubaix museum : La Piscine, in October, 2022.

The Arts and Crafts Movement quickly spread across Europe and America. It is still very popular, more than 100 years later !

Many museums exhibit objects of this style, such as the National Gallery in Dublin, which we talk about here on, our travel blog.

William Morris, the artist with a thousand faces

William Morris

William Morris (1896 – 1896) was an entrepreneur, a businessman, a (socialist) politician, an architect, a printer, an artist … He was also the author of the first fantasy novels.

In the continuity of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, with the other founders of the Arts and Crafts Movement, he wishes to produce beautiful objects within the reach of the greatest number (“Art in Everything and for Everyone”), so that the union of aesthetics and usefulness offers producers and consumers, the satisfaction of an elevation through their work.

We note in his works in particular the use of plant motifs, sometimes animals, and the desire to bring humanity, naturalness, simplicity, nostalgia, in contrast with the gray of England of the Industrial Revolution. Passionate about medieval literature and Gothic architecture, Morris tries to transcribe this fascination in his craftsmanship.

William Morris – Preparatory drawing for a stained glass window

The architecture, the furniture, the decoration, everything must go in the direction of this artistic philosophy, which William Morris and Philip Webb will implement in 1859 in the “Red House”, in south-east London, at Bexleyheath.

Red House, Bexleyheath

They design the entire house, from the furniture to the stained glass windows, including the furniture, the curtains, and the wallpapers. Note that this house has an organic structure: the layout of the rooms implies the structure of the facade (this is the “Structural Truth”).

William Morris is also known for having set up a printing press to reinvent the techniques and typographies of medieval manuscripts. This printing press, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co.n will also be used for the production of its famous wallpapers. What better way to make art accessible to everyone ?

Arts and Crafts on

The works of the Arts & Craft movement, and in particular those of William Morris, are perfectly suited for coloring. Indeed, there are fine and detailed, harmonious patterns, mixing abstract, vegetal and sometimes animal.

Take a look, for example, at these magnificent books printed by the printing house of William Morris! The background patterns were created by himself.

Some patterns are repeated and we know that in coloring, the principle of repetition contribute to the soothing, relaxing effect provided by this activity … accessible to all.

Here is a detail of wallpaper published by William Morris’s printing press, typical of the Arts and Craft movement (repetitive and symmetrical elements, alliance of the plant and animal world, bright and pleasant colors, simplicity…). Thanks to these magnificent wallpapers, Art can enter everyone’s homes, and becomes accessible to everyone.

“Accessible to all” : the loop is complete, because it was the vocation of the Arts & Crafts movement ! Producing beauty, in everything and for everyone.

Find our Arts & Crafts Movement coloring pages gallery here, with free coloring pages to download and print !