Emerging out of a backlash against the Industrial Revolution, the Arts & Crafts movement sought to celebrate artisans and guilds, it was thus also known as the Guild Revival Movement.
When The Great Exhibition of 1851 showcased largely machine made jewellery items, in a time which celebrated the innovation of the machine, two of the leading propagators of the movement, art critic John Ruskin and designer WIlliam Morris were unimpressed with the low quality of mass production. For those involved with the Arts and Crafts movement, individual artisans alonside quality design and manufacturing became underlining components of the movement. Ruskin and Morris praised European medieval craftmanship and advocated craftsman-designers working by hand, championing traditions that maintained standards of good workmanship.
The fundamental style of the Arts & Crafts movement was that of entwined motifs and undulating lines. In order to appeal to the growing middle classes, silver, aluminium and copper were more commonly used than the more expensive gold. The use of enamel featured greatly in Arts & Crafts designs, particularly that of plique-a-jour (meaning open to light) this separated the machine made mass produced jewellery. The use of more naturalistic gems such as turquoise, pearls and cabochons rather than cut stones also maintained the ideology. At this time, earrings were not particularly fashionable and this reflects in the abundance of necklaces, buckles, brooches and hair slides, all with foliate, naturalistic motifs.
Another influence to reflect in the motifs, was that of the Far East. New trade links with Japan can be seen in the designs particularly that of Liberty & Co. who had imported silks and fabrics from the Middle East, India and Asia. They anonymously used individual designers, such as Archibald Knox and Jessie M. King, to coincide with the mind-set of the Arts and Craft movement.
Designer Archibald Knox is best known for his work for Liberty & Co. At the turn of the 18th century, he worked directly for Liberty & Co, designing metalware, materials, and carpets. In 1899, Knox created designs for Liberty's "Cymric" line in silver objects and "Tudor" in pewter . His work married naturalistic motifs and Celtic knotwork designs, along with nautical themes.
Scottish designer and illustrator, Jessie M. King was perhaps best known for her work as a book illustrator. She was one of the most commercially successful designers to emerge from Glasgow at this time. A prolific and successful 'Glasgow Style' designer, she sold fabric designs to Liberty and Co. and produced jewellery designs for their Cymric line. King's designs included pieces in silver and enamel as well as pieces with gemstones.
Women were really given a platform in the Arts & Crafts movement, primarily due to the men they were associated with, Georgina Gaskin married to the artist and known for his enamel work Arthur Gaskin created jewellery under their names for Liberty & Co. and were founders and leaders of the Birmingham Group of Artist-Craftsmen.
We are delighted to include several fine examples of Arts & Craft jewellery and silver in our forthcoming online only auction of Decorative Arts: Design since 1860 auction.
Decorative Arts: Design since 1860 | Wednesday 1st April | Online Only