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History of the Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society

The Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society was formed in 1887 with Walter Crane as its first President. William Morris was President for the period of 1891 until his death in 1896, after which Crane returned until after the 1912 Exhibition. H. Wilson was President in 1916. The fundamental aim of the Society was to achieve the same level of public awareness and recognition for designers and makers of decorative art objects as for painters of pictures. As a consequence, the Society held regular exhibitions at various venues in London, with the first one held during the autumn of 1888, at the New Gallery at 121 Regent Street, London. The tenth exhibition was located at the Grosvenor Gallery, 51A New Bond Street and the last exhibition, recorded as a part of this project, is the eleventh exhibition which was held at the Royal Academy, Burlington House in 1916.

Contents of the original catalogues

The Exhibition catalogues contain a list of Arts & Crafts Society members, guarantors, publications, and lectures. The President’s preface (which appears in each of these catalogues and not recorded in these transcriptions) reflects contemporary comments on the Arts & Crafts Movement. The historically noteworthy topics include:

  1. The establishment of the Society (1888)
  2. The late President of the Society, William Morris (1899)
  3. The Society’s participation in the First International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art, Turin and the presentation of a Diploma of Special Honour in homage to the art of England (1903)
  4. The participation in the British Art Section at St. Louis International Exhibition, 1904 and the work of municipal art and technological schools (1906)
  5. The lack of funding for the work of the living as compared with past masters (1910)
  6. The need for a movement in art rather than a ‘tendency to reversion’ (1912)
  7. The effects of war and ‘too little [encouragement] on the real development of personality’ (1916).

The preface or foreword written by the President is followed in certain years by various essays or notes:

1888 – I. Textiles (William Morris); II. Decorative Painting and Design (Walter Crane); III. Wall Papers (Walter Crane); IV. Fictiles (G.T. Robinson); V. Metalwork (W.A.S. Benson); VI. Stone and Wood Carving (Somers Clark), VII. Furniture (Stephen Webb); VIII. Stained Glass (Somers Clark); IX. Table Glass (Somers Clark); X. Printing (Emery Walker); XI. Bookbinding (T.J. Cobden-Sanderson).

1889 – I. Mural Painting (F. Madox Brown); II. Sgraffito Work (Heywood Sumner); III. Stucco and Gesso (G.T. Robinson); IV. Cast Iron (W.R. Lethaby); V. Dyeing as an Art (William Morris); VI. Embroidery (May Morris); VII. Lace (Alan S. Cole); VIII. Book Illustration and Book Decoration (Regionald T. Blomfield); IX. Designs and Working Drawings (Lewis F. Day).

1890 – A. of FURNITURE I. Furniture & the Room (Edward S. Prior); II. The Room and Furniture (Halsey Ricardo); III. The English Tradition (Reginald T. Blomfield); IV. Carpenter’s Furniture (W.R. Lethaby); V. Decorated Furniture (J.H. Pollen); VI. Carving (Stephen Webb); VII. Intarsia and Inlaid Wood (T.G. Jackson); VIII. Woods and Other Materials (Stephen Webb).
B. of EMBROIDERY. I. Modern Embroidery (Mary E. Turner); II. Materials (May Morris); III. Colour (May Morris). IV. Stitches and Mechanism (Alan S. Cole).

1896 – A Note on the Work of Ford Madox Brown (his grandson, Ford Madox Hueffer).

List of the Society's Publications 
(as published in 1912)

  • Arts & Crafts Essays, by Members of The Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society with a Preface by William Morris. Price 2s 6d.
  • Art & Life, and the Building and Decoration of Cities, by Members of The Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society (1897). Price 1s 6d.
  • The Arts and Crafts Movement, by T.J. Cobden-Sanderson. Hammersmith Publishing Society (1905). Price 2s 6d.
  • Ecce Mundus. Industrial Ideals and the Book Beautiful, by T.J. Cobden-Sanderson. Hammersmith Publishing Society (1902). Price 2s 6d.