George Washington Henry Jack (1855 – 1931) was an American-born architect and Arts and Crafts Furniture designer. He was the chief Arts & Crafts Furniture designer for William Morris. However, although many of Jack’s exquisitely carved chairs and antique cabinets were produced for the Morris company, he had a successful enterprise of his own, and his designs stand firmly on their own merits.
George Jack and English Arts and Crafts Furniture
George Jack was born on Long Island, New York, of Scottish parents. Upon his father’s death in 1860, he was brought back to Glasgow. Here, he was apprenticed to Horatio Bromhead before moving to London, where he eventually joined the office of Philip Webb in 1880.
Webb is considered the Father of Arts and Crafts Architecture. He was also a gifted furniture designer, collaborating with Morris and Burne-Jones from 1858 onwards. Buyers in Cumbria pay large sums for his Victorian dining chairs and antique cabinets, but George Jack is no less esteemed. His skills in woodcraft so impressed Webb that he introduced him to William Morris, and from1885 onwards George Jack was employed by Morris & Co as a furniture designer.
Arts & Crafts Furniture – or Art Nouveau?
George Jack’s elaborately carved Victorian dining chairs and settees were the perfect match for Morris’ colourful textile designs, leading some to suggest influence from the European Art Nouveau movement. Morris, Jack and Webb undoubtedly saw the potential of what was perceived as a passing fad by other English Arts and Crafts Furniture designers – though their style was resolutely their own.
In 1896, the Central School of Arts and Crafts was founded, aided by sponsorship from William Morris and John Ruskin (another important figure in Arts & Crafts Furniture, who lived in Cumbria.) Morris died the same year, and George Jack became a founding lecturer at the school. He later took over Philip Webb’s architectural practice, publishing his seminal work, “Woodcarving, Design and Workmanship” in 1903.
Arts & Crafts Furniture enthusiasts in Cumbria wanting something a little more decorative than normal should consider the carved antique cabinets and chairs of George Jack, who continued working up to and after WWI.