The Arts and Crafts Movement in Surrey. A cottage by Sir Edwin Lutyens at Munstead.

William De Morgan tile. Click to visit the Demorgan centre.

Hand, Heart & Soul - The Arts and Crafts Movement in Scotland

The exhibition will tour the country, launching at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh in June, and later travelling to Sheffield, Aberdeen and one other venue. The exhibition will close in August 2008.

Hand, Heart and Soul is of a very immediate nature and there are several key themes that comprise the narrative of the exhibition. The exhibition will focus on social activism in the 1880s and 1890s in Glasgow and Edinburgh, domestic and ecclesiastical architecture and design, the growth of rural arts communities and the participation of women’s craft groups, as well as the lasting impact of the Arts and Crafts movement.

The organisers anticipate this being a popular exhibition, coinciding with the Edinburgh Festival. Given the broad variety of artists and makers concerned, the exhibition will provide an opportunity to broaden appreciation of the movement and will serve to illustrate the cross pollination of common ideals across the border.

The exhibition context

The exhibition builds and expands on recent focused monographs and exhibitions, including Peter Savage's book on the architect and designer Robert Lorimer (1980), Jude Burkhauser's groundbreaking exhibition Glasgow Girls: Women in Art and Design 1880-1920 (1990) and Elizabeth Cumming's exhibitions Glasgow 1900: Art & Design (1992) at the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam, and Phoebe Anna Traquair 1852-1936 (1993) at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. In 1996 a major international touring show of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh was organised by Glasgow Museums. Scotland was represented, if somewhat thinly, at the major International Arts and Crafts exhibition held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2005.

These exhibitions and their catalogues all raised awareness of the importance of Arts and Crafts as a design movement which reflected and expressed the needs of society. Hand, Heart & Soul explores the roots and development of a vibrant visual culture which was a success story far beyond the shores of Scotland, with a number of its key designers active also in Europe and America. It is a remarkable, and as yet untold, story, rich in design, ideas and personalities, and as such it is guaranteed to be popular with the general public and of value to scholars and collectors alike.

Exhibition concept

The exhibition will be an exploration of identity, or, more accurately, identities as during the period 1880 to 1939 Scots often operated a Scottish-British cultural duality in terms of their ideas and practice. The story of Arts and Crafts in Scotland enriches our understanding of Britishness as much as of Scottishness. While the main focus will fall naturally on the Scottish designers, the dialogue between London and Scotland is a thread which runs through the exhibition. William Morris, the English designer called the father of the Arts and Crafts movement, was active within Scotland, his company made windows for Scottish churches, and its weavers would come north to establish a tapestry workshop, the private Dovecot Studio in Edinburgh. Other celebrated English designers, such as Walter Crane, encouraged developments in 'North Britain' or designed for Scottish manufacture. Conversely, from the 1880s a number of Scots architects trained in London, opened offices there or were members of the key British Arts and Crafts 'clubs', the Art Workers' Guild or the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. Lorimer, Mackintosh and Phoebe Traquair, who all exhibited in London, will be placed for the first time in not only their Scottish but British context. Others with London connections who are currently forgotten, such as the Ayr architect, designer, writer and conservationist James A Morris and textile manufacturer James Morton, will emerge from the dark shadow of neglect.

Above all, however, this exhibition places Arts and Crafts design within the local and national context. The field was driven in equal measure in Scotland by social concerns and keen aspirations to identify and express Scottish values. Artist designers, architects and craftsmen produced work which was simultaneously modern and reflected tradition. Two of the key driving forces of the wider Arts and Crafts movement - the right to be an individualist and the desire to be relevant to location and tradition - were as strong in Scotland as they were in England, Scandinavia or Eastern Europe.

In this exhibition Arts and Crafts is shown to have been both tool and expression of society, reflecting the evolving artistic and socio-political ambitions of a small nation state. The heartland of Arts and Crafts production was Lowland Scotland from Ayr to Edinburgh. Although Arts and Crafts is now sometimes dismissed as a form of escapism from the rigours and pressures of the Victorian world, the movement depended in Scotland as elsewhere on industrialisation for much of its drive and many of its patrons. Indeed, Glasgow, the thriving, energised centre of Scottish heavy industry, produced the most creative and far-reaching design of the period. More traditionalist Arts and Crafts prospered in Edinburgh, and to a lesser extent in Aberdeen, Dundee and rural locations where their form and materials were defined by history.

The exhibition will explore the ideas and work of both familiar and unfamiliar designers and architects, and bring forward lesser known names, some of them not designers but industrialists or artists. Two contrasting Glaswegians, for instance, were the industrial chemist Robert Maclaurin, promoter of a Socialist housing colony 'The Homesteads' in Stirling, and Sir David Young Cameron, an artist remembered principally for his landscape paintings, but also a committed promoter of church craft. Like London Scots architect James MacLaren and curator, designer and writer D S MacColl, Maclaurin and Cameron were related by marriage. In a small country, the story of Arts and Crafts is a fascinating one of networks of families and friends all sharing a dedication to the rightful place of art within modern society - and through its remarkable narrative can be seen a miniature story of society itself.

Outline narrative

Arranged thematically over six sections, the exhibition will demonstrate how artists, designers and industrialists shaped Arts and Crafts practice in Scotland. Educators and artists laid the foundations of Arts and Crafts practice in the 1880s and empowered its development through the 1890s, how industrialists, architects and artists variously steered its growth in the early twentieth century and its eventual transformation into Modernism. Against the seemingly destructive, cleansing forces of Modernism, land-owning classes made their bid for the retention of historic property and were largely responsible for founding the modern conservation movement.

1. Art for All sources and illustrates the social activism of the 1880s and early 1890s, particularly in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Inspired originally by London practice, the mural decorations commissioned by the Glasgow Kyrle Society and the Edinburgh Social Union for public buildings involved the 'Glasgow Boys' and Phoebe Anna Traquair. Public art continued to be important through the 1890s and 1900s but now for the middle classes rather than the working class. Until the 1920s department stores and tea rooms provided a 'civilised' environment in which design and craft practice played their part.

2. Innovation and Tradition identifies how new ideas in design education enabled tradition to emerge as a key modern idea, and how this developed into distinct design cultures, from the 'Glasgow Style' to Edinburgh's traditionalism and Pan-Celticism. The new design education in Scotland also encouraged the professional practice of women as artist-designers. Working individually or collectively, many middle class women found urban culture an acceptable base for professional working, networking and exhibiting. Others constructed craft communities or worked towards larger, national associations, including London's Guild of Women Binders.

3. Houses for Art Lovers explores domestic architectural design and manufacture across Scotland between the 1890s and the 1930s, with emphasis on the developed concept of the furnished house as both a work of art and an expression of national identity. English architects Philip Webb, W R Lethaby, M H Baillie Scott and Edwin Lutyens all designed country houses for Scotland and these serve to contextualise the work of James Morris, Lorimer, Mackintosh, John Kinross, Leslie Grahame Thomson and Basil Spence. Furniture, textiles, metalwork, woodcarving and ceramics accompany architectural drawings and photographs.

4. The Ministry of the Beautiful concentrates on ecclesiastical design and the concept of the spiritual in artistic craft. The United Presbyterian, Free, and Episcopal Churches, in particular, commissioned a variety of work, some of it intensely Celtic, others more inspired by the mysticism of William Blake. Glass, metalwork and woodcarving were key crafts for churches, produced by studios which were often small and independent. The new (Thistle Chapel) and the restored (e.g. Dunblane Cathedral and Paisley Abbey) both demanded highly sympathetic artistic craft.

5. Craft and Community looks specifically at the interaction of professional and amateur makers and society through city associations and exhibiting societies, and at the growth of dedicated rural craft communities. The Scottish Guild of Handicraft transferred from Glasgow to Stirling specifically to become 'more Scottish'. In the post-war years art was reintegrated with the everyday to reinvigorate rural communities. In Kirkcudbright, art and craft classes were mixed with theatricals and pageants. Community work was further extended from the 1920s through the Rural Institutes network and the founding in the late 1930s of the Iona Community, a dedicated Christian fellowship recruited from industrial Govan.

6. Arts and Crafts Transformed documents how Modernism reformed Arts and Crafts aesthetics, particularly in architectural practice, between the wars. The discussion will range from Lorimer's Scottish National War Memorial to new community and council housing. Modernism allied to the growth of Scottish nationalism led the upper classes to make a stand for architectural preservation and good conservation practice. This continued after the Second World War when there was once more a deeply felt cultural need for traditional domestic and architectural crafts, formalised in the Festival of Britain exhibition Living Traditions in Edinburgh. Sadie MacLellan's glass expressed the transition from lyrical traditionalism (the Robin Chapel at the Thistle Foundation) to international expressionism.

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Address City Art Centre, 2 Market Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DE
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Monday to Saturday 10am - 5pm, Sunday 12 noon - 5pm

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Joint curator of Hand, Heart and Soul, Elizabeth Cumming, Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Glasgow University and independent art and design historian, will present a lecture The Arts and Crafts Movement in Edinburgh on Thursday 16 August 10.30am-12.30pm at Lauriston Castle.

A leaflet is available detailing the lectures and talks at Lauriston Castle during 2007. ( pdf 239Kb)

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