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Arts and Crafts Furniture
The background to Arts and Crafts furniture was a quest to replace the reproduction styles of classic ‘Victorian’ furniture with design, materials and handiwork that was original and authentic. This quest was seen first in the Gothic revival style of A W Pugin – furnisher of the Houses of Parliament, and followed less rigidly by Charles Eastlake, G E Street and others. In the 1860s came an oriental influence on Western style as Japan opened up to the world – this was embraced by designers such as E W Godwin and Christopher Dresser, who helped in the 1870s to create the style of the Aesthetic Movement – often associated with Oscar Wilde.
From the 1880s the Arts and Crafts Movement, reflecting the ideals of John Ruskin and the handcrafted design approach of William Morris, began to enter the mass market through the output of firms including Morris & Co, Liberty & Co, Shapland and Petter, Harris Lebus, & Bath Cabinet Makers, as well as major firms in Scotland like Wylie & Lochhead of Glasgow. The wholly handcrafted furniture of the famous names – William Morris, C R Ashbee, the Barnsley brothers, and Ernest Gimson of the Cotswold School, as well as the architect designed furniture of C F A Voysey, William Lethaby and Charles Rennie Macintosh, rarely comes onto the market and fetches premium prices. However, firms like Shapland & Petter and Harris Lebus were able to produce pieces at a more reasonable cost for a wider market. Theirs was large scale production, utilising machinery where viable, yet incorporating handiwork in the use of decorative copper panels, hinges and inlays, in a way that was true to the spirit of the Arts and Crafts movement. Moreover, the sheer variety of the items produced, by these and countless other smaller workshops means that that there is genuinely something for everyone – and for every room in the house.