Yesterday we discussed the origins of the Arts & Crafts movement which flourished—in several countries, under different names—during the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries. As pointed out, this period coincided with the rise (in some countries) of a new middle class who now, perhaps for the first time, had disposable income to spend on luxuries such as home decor. But the Arts & Crafts movement was not long-lived. For various reasons, it only enjoyed a brief lifetime, perhaps twenty five years.
First of all, Arts & Crafts was expensive; the best objects were hand-crafted and required quality raw materials. One would need to spend good money to have such simplicity! Secondly, the look (a precursor to Modernism) was avant garde. And, like with any new aesthetic deviating from the prevailing norm, not everyone appreciated it. And third, the new middle class, hungry for a little luxury, would more likely be drawn to a (less-expensive) version of what the aristocracy had—not some new, unproven, socially-conscious “movement.” To embrace Arts & Crafts, in its day, one would have to be a bit open-minded, a bit free-thinking.
The death knell for Arts & Crafts was the “double whammy” of World War I followed by the hot new thing: Art Deco.
Naturally, during war time, much production was diverted to the national effort. Luxuries—like hand-beaten copper and beautifully glazed ceramics—took a back seat to higher priorities. Young men were sent-off to the fronts and dying in record numbers. The very technology that drove the Industrial Revolution was transforming the battlefield, too: aircraft, weaponry, poison gasses. People weren’t thinking of redecorating their homes.
By the time The Great War was over, people were eager to put the past behind them. They were ready for something new. Something streamlined, something modern, something forward-looking. Enter Art Deco!
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at Art Deco and why it proved to be such a lasting, popular aesthetic.
In the meantime, have a look at the English Arts & Crafts mirror (above) decorated with a hand-beaten poppy flower motif. Click on the picture if you’d like to learn more about it.