Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe and America, 1880-1920: Design for the Modern World


The Arts and Crafts movement was largely concerned with domestic art; it was always intimately tied to home life. Swedish design reformers endorsed the Arts and Crafts principles of bringing art into the home and making good design accessible to everyone. The Swedish author, critic, and theorist of family life Ellen Key (1849–1926) wrote Skönhet för alla (Beauty for All), which was widely read in Scandinavia and abroad. She also sponsored acclaimed exhibitions featuring “worker’s furniture,” like the armchair designed by Carl Westman on display here.

Key championed the painter Carl Larsson, whose home fulfilled the Arts and Crafts ideal of creating a total work of art. A rural retreat embodying the best native traditions, Larsson’s house was immortalized in books of watercolors (produced between 1899 and 1913) that illustrated the domestic felicity Larsson shared with his wife, Karin, and their eight children.
Sweden established organizations, such as the Swedish Society for Industrial Design, to encourage craft as well as its application to industry. The country was renowned for its successful porcelain and glass manufactories, which hired well-known artists to create modern design statements. Sweden also pioneered the establishment of museums dedicated to preserving national cultural heritage. Founded in Stockholm in 1891, Skansen, the world’s first open-air museum, simulated rural life by housing its collections in vernacular buildings that had been moved to the site.

—Wendy Kaplan (2005)