Although mass production during the Victorian era had created a much wider domestic furniture market, towards the latter part of the 19th century there was growing criticism that aesthetics were being lost where manufacturers were purely copying decorative styles of the past.
A main exponent for change was the renowned painter, decorator, political activist and general cultural icon William Morris (1834-96) who wanted to bring about reform across the arts generally. For Morris, it was a retrospective to a simpler time where the craftsman, rather than the machine, was celebrated and this focus became part of a manifesto for the Arts and Crafts movement. Other Victorian worthies such as John Ruskin (1819-1900) and A W N Pugin (1812-52) also looked to the qualities of the artisan rather than the machine. For Pugin it was the Gothic style that he saw as having integrity and function without being over fussy.
Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. was set up in 1861 as a collaboration of artists and artisans and presented items of furniture, stained glass and tapestries at the 1862 South Kensington Exhibition in London. Furniture particularly reflected the aesthetics of the movement and Charles Annesley Voysey (1857-1941), a trained cabinet maker, created pieces which had the plain surfaces and fine lines now associated with Arts and Crafts furniture .
The Arts and Crafts as a movement spread across Europe and America but was never really able to compete commercially with the onslaught of industrialisation. However many fine pieces of handmade Arts and Crafts furniture remain today and can be found through reputable dealerships in Lancashire and Cumbria.
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