The Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain, Part 5:-- Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo--

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Impact on Furniture Design With Emergence of Vernacular/Organic Architecture, 1850s-1900s

Directory for Pages on the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain

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The Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain, Part 1:-- August Northmore Welby Pugin and Neo-Gothicism--

The Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain, Part 2:-- John Ruskin--

The Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain, Part 3:-- William Morris--

The Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain, Part 4:-- Edward William Godwin and Bruce Talbert, and Christopher Dresser--

The Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain, Part 5:-- Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo--

The Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain, No 6:-- M Hugh Baillie-Scott,C F A Voysey, Charles Rennie Mackintosh

See examples of Furniture With Vernacular/Organic Architecture Designs in Isabelle Anscombe's Arts and Crafts Style

Anscombe's book is not available for viewing online, but, if you're interested on you can find a copy for a reasonable price

The "Overview" in the Iframe page below sketches out the highlights of the beginning of vernacular design in furniture. click here for a full-screen page


Until I discovered the 1905 The English House, a 3-volume set, by the German, Hermann Muthesius, I wasn't sufficiently sensitive to how, in America, the taste for Arts and Crafts architecture and design was shaped.

As the Arts and Crafts movement matured in Britain -- by turning its attention on the middle-class home -- it achieved a greater sense of domestic grace and coherence. Part of its achieving grace and coherence emerged out of the dropping of the overbearing Gothic symbolism, giving way to a more manageable conception of domestic pleasures.

Inspired by a sheltering visage of the cottage and the farmhouse, the Arts and Crafts house started to symbolize warmth and protection, informality and welcome. Rural traditions, vernacular architecture, local materials — these were the elements employed by British architect-designers such as A. H. Mackmurdo, C. F. A. Voysey, M H Baillie-Scott, and C. R. Mackintosh, and others.

The goal: to place a building within its specific landscape and to enhance the ornamental role of structural elements, and to achieve the goal, rough-cast stucco, tile-hanging, shingles, half-timbering, pat­terned brickwork, and mullioned and leaded windows were all used. Moreover, these designers did not limit themselves simply to the "house", but envisaged their role from a broader perspective, a perspective that included the interior and it furnishings, and thus could be said to be designing "homes", not simply houses, a theme that among the four architect-designers, at least Baillie-Scott, for one, argued.

from comino These ideas and practices -- the architect seeing his role broadened beyond simply house design, to also embrace interior design and furniture -- trace back in the 19th century. The Gothic Revival architects in the mid-nineteenth century played an important role in the establishment and widespread acceptance of the Gothic style, and of a new approach to furniture design.

The ideas struck by these British architect-designers were absorbed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and Greene and Greene in America, or Eliel Saarinen in Finland. (For our narrative, it was the creative drive of these four that had such a forceful and lasting impact upon Gustav Stickley and/or Stickley's designer associates.)

I was informed by Rodel and Binzen's Taunton Press Book

Only then -- belatedly -- did the masterful account -- laid out in text and colored images -- of the Arts and Crafts "movements" -- both yesterday and today -- by Kevin P. Rodel and Jonathon Binzen in their Arts and Crafts Furniture: From Classic to Contemporary -- begin to have an impact. The forces from which these ideals materialized in Britain were provided largely by architects. But along with Rodel and Binzen -- who don't document their sources -- major biographies by James Kornwolf on the British architect-designer, M H Baillie-Scott, Wendy Mitchmough on the British architect-designer, C F A Voysey, and David Cathers, on Gustav Stickley, chronicle and document the fertile fields in Britain that Gustav Stickley and other American furniture designers and manufacturers exploited for ideas in the 1890s and 1910s. The accounts of Voysey and Baillie-Scott's contributions -- especially on furniture design -- are discussed below; Cathers' narrative of how Voysey and his contemporaries are discussed here

First Venacular Architecture Which Include Specially-Designed Furniture is Philip Webb's 1859 Red House for William Morris

[image on p 31 of pevsner, 1949; image of interior on page 98 of anscombe, 1991] Philip Webb's Red House – built in 1859 for William Morris and specifically designed to create an environment for a modern family – is the first house to break with the neo-gothicism of the nineteenth century. Afterwards -- according to Isabelle Anscombe -- Webb was "never satisfied with a building until it began to look commonplace", a concept meaning that decorative elements are reserved and understated, with many built-in cupboards, sideboards and benches.

norman shaw chair 1876

A precursor to the movement, in London in the 1830s and 1840s, A.W. N. Pugin designed interior fittings and furniture expressly for his buildings. In 1859 William Morris's Red House -- designed by Philip Webb and furnished down to the last dessert fork by Morris and his circle -- elaborated on many of these same ideas. The 1879 chair -- on the left -- by the architect, Norman Shaw (1831-1912), is a link between the neo-Gothicism of early Morris (or his associates) and the craftsman tradition of Ernest Gimson and other co-workers in the Cotswolds.

1. Arthur Hyeygate Mackmurdo and the Emergence of Arts and Crafts

Mackmurdo's career as architect and designer was short, but in several ways it was influential.

mackmurdo portrait

At Oxford University, Mackmurdo's studies included courses from John Ruskin. Mackmurdo adopted Ruskin's views on the need -- through architecture -- to integrate the crafts and the fine arts.

To encourage this integration, with a friend, in 1882 Mackmurdo founded the Century Guild, where his ideas dominated. Influenced by Morris & Co., the Century Guild was an affiliation of independent architects, painters, and craftsmen who could provide architectural services as well as all the elements of an interior's decorative arts.

Another of Mackmurdo's influential undertakings was production (under the Guild's umbrella)a magazine, The Hobby Horse:-- see example here.

In furniture, Mackmurdo's designs -- with asymmetrical patterns of vegetation:-- stems, leaves and flowers give his pieces an impression of growth -- predict Art Nouveau.

mcakmurdo's 1886 desk

Prominent among Mackmurdo's success are:

1. a design that proved equally seminal for the furniture style that was the complete antithesis of Arts and Crafts.

His poppy chair of about 1883, with its pierce-carved back of slender, sinuous flowers, was a clear precursor of the Art Nouveau style.

2. His 1886 desk: For its day, radically rectilinear -- with its fumed-brown white-oak-grained surfaces and subtle conjoining of horizontal and vertical elements -- it distills Arts and Crafts principles, the inspiration for a style carried forward by later British Arts and Crafts designers such as Charles F. A. Voysey, M H Baillie Scott, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Americans such as Gustav Stickley and Harvey Ellis.

Sources: M H Baillie Scott, Houses and gardens : arts and crafts interiors 1933; Nikolaus Pevsner, Pioneers of Modern Design: From William Morris to Walter Gropius New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1949, pages 89-93; James D. Kornwolf, M. H. Baillie Scott and the arts and crafts movement: pioneers of modern design 1972; Nicholas Taylor, "Baillie Scott's Waldbuhl", Architectural Review ,December 1965, pages 455-58; Kevin P. Rodel and Jonathan Binzen, Arts & crafts furniture : from classic to contemporary Newtown, CT : Taunton Press, 2003; David Cathers, Gustav Stickley New York: Phaidon, 2003.

Sources: Hermann Muthesius, The English House, in 3 vols, ed with intro by Dennis Sharp; trans by Janet Seligman and Stewart Spencer London: Frances Lincoln, 1905-1906; reprinted, 2007; Nikolaus Pevsner, Pioneers of modern design from William Morris to Walter Gropius New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1949; Gillian Naylor, The arts and crafts movement: a study of its sources, ideals, and influence on design theory Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1971; ; Isabelle Anscombe and Charlotte Gere, Arts & crafts in Britain and America‎ New York: Rizzoli, 1978; Mary Greensted, Gimson and the Barnsleys: "wonderful furniture of a commonplace kind" New York: Van Nostrand, 1980; Lionel Lambourne, Utopian craftsmen: the arts and crafts movement from the Cotswolds to Chicago Salt Lake City: Peregrine Smith, 1980 ; Eileen Boris , Art and labor: Ruskin, Morris, and the craftsman ideal in America‎ Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986 Isabelle Anscomb, Arts and Crafts Style, London: Phaidon, 1991; Mary Greensted, The arts and crafts movement in the Cotswolds Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 1993; Kitty Turgeon and Robert Rust, The Arts and Crafts Home‎ New York: Michael Friedman, 1998 ; Wendy Hitchmough,, The Arts & Crafts lifestyle and design New York: Watson-Guptil, 2000 ; David Cathers, Gustav Stickley, NY: Phaidon, 2003; ;