On View: Decorative Art, 20th-Century Decorative Arts, 4th Floor
From the 1860s through the 1910s, proponents of the Arts and Crafts movement in both Britain and the United States opposed industrialization and its dehumanizing effects. Instead, they championed honest use of materials, reduction of applied ornament, and interiors with soft, muted colors. One of its earliest British promoters was William Morris, an ardent socialist and designer of the window hanging on view here, who advocated a philosophy of reform that sought to reconnect objects and makers and recast the designer as craftsman.
Through publications and lectures the movement quickly spread to the United States, where it gained popularity as much for its aesthetics as its social ideals. In Massachusetts, the Grueby Faience Company created matte green glazes for its naturalistic art pottery, while the Pairpoint Manufacturing Company produced Arts and Crafts–inspired designs in silver. In upstate New York, Gustav Stickley became a leading proponent of American Arts and Crafts through his influential publication, The Craftsman; his widely distributed, industrially produced furniture equally embodied his mantra of simplicity and honesty of materials and construction. In Southern California, the architecture and design firm of Greene and Greene created fully integrated architecture and interiors filled with luxurious furnishings that accented mahogany chairs with ebony construction details. More idiosyncratic was George Ohr. The self-proclaimed “Mad Potter of Biloxi,” Mississippi, Ohr created eccentric, technically outstanding ceramics using clay dug from the nearby Tchoutacabouffa River.
Honduras mahogany, ebony, with inlay of silver, abalone, copper, pewter, and exotic woods
43 1/2 x 21 1/2 x 19 1/2 in. (110.5 x 54.5 x 49.5 cm) (show scale)
"1" stamped under seat, "7" stamped on underside of removable chair seat
Designated Purchase Fund
Charles Sumner Greene (American, 1868-1957). Side Chair, ca. 1907. Honduras mahogany, ebony, with inlay of silver, abalone, copper, pewter, and exotic woods, 43 1/2 x 21 1/2 x 19 1/2 in. (110.5 x 54.5 x 49.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Designated Purchase Fund, 84.66. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 84.66_bw.jpg)
overall, 84.66_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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We are from Japan! Is there any artwork related to cultural exchange between Japan and America?
Yes! It is fascinating to see how Japanese art inspired American artists and designers, especially after our countries began trading in 1853.
There is a chair by the designers Greene and Greene that places little pieces of dark ebony wood over the structural joins of the chair, in order to draw attention to the beauty of utility. Apparently this is something that was done in traditional Japanese architecture.
That's the one! At this time, American decorative arts was becoming very industrialized. Many people idealized Japan as a place where handmade craftsmanship was appreciated and preserved.Many Americans admired the simplicity of Japanese design in comparison to the over-the-top, heavily ornamented mass-produced objects on the market. What do you think of it?
I agree that the simplicity is one face of the beauty of Japanese culture. On the other hand there are also excessively decorative preferences in some parts of Japan. The sense of beauty in Japan has can be so diverse depending on region.
So interesting! It's fascinating what American artists picked up on when they looked to Japan for inspiration.
Thank you! We are leaving the museum now. We enjoyed the conversation with you and this is one of the best museums in NYC!