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A Fresh Look At The Works of Ernest Gimson

A Fresh Look At The Works of Ernest Gimson

A Fresh Look At The Works of Ernest Gimson

A new book titled Ernest Gimson: Arts and Crafts Designer and Architect written by Annette Carruthers, Mary Greensted and Barley Roscoe is being published by Yale University Press in October 2019.

Ernest Gimson has been described as ‘the greatest of the English artist-craftsmen’ (Pevsner 1960) and was a central figure in the British Arts and Crafts Movement. He died aged 54 on 12 August 1919 so it’s appropriate that this book will appear in his centenary year. Based on extensive new research from original sources, written by experienced authors and illustrated with many unpublished images and superb new photographs by James Brittain, it will fill a major gap in the field of Arts and Crafts studies and is expected to become the standard work on Gimson.

The book is divided into two sections: the first looks in detail at Gimson’s life, the development of his approach to his work, his contacts and his influences. Trained as an architect in his home town of Leicester, Gimson worked in London in the 1880s, joining the circle around William Morris and Philip Webb at the Art Workers’ Guild and in the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. In 1893 he moved with friends and fellow architects, Ernest and Sidney Barnsley, to live and work in a radically different way deep in the Cotswold countryside. There he practised as an architect, made modeled plasterwork and set up workshops for the production of furniture and metalwork, rapidly establishing a reputation for both his distinctive style of design and the superb quality of making by his assistants.

Gimson’s architectural projects, the making of furniture, metalwork and plasterwork, and his designs for the embroideries and bookbindings executed by his female relatives are described and analysed in detail in the second section. The final chapter discusses Gimson’s influence in Britain and overseas and his continuing relevance to debates about the role of craft in the modern world.

Finally a list of Gimson’s major works brings together newly researched and existing information.

We would love to have you join us and share our enthusiasm for this history – and the continuation – of this extraordinary Movement and group of architects, designers, philosophers and urban planners. For more information, visit the official Gimson and the Barnsleys tour page and join us on this wonderful tour

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Whether you have a starting interest in learning about the Arts and Crafts Movement or have a desire to see some of the most fascinating places, people, and artifacts of the era, join us on one or more of our upcoming tours and immerse yourself in history.

Why Travel with Arts & Crafts Tours

Why Travel with Arts & Crafts Tours

Why Travel with Arts & Crafts Tours

If you are interested in the Arts & Crafts Movement – a little or a lot – I heartily encourage you to give our small group tours a try. What makes a good trip? Lots of advance research. Unless you like to go to the same place over and over (I know many people who go to Paris every chance they get, for example), it’s disappointing to spend a lot of money and time visiting a new destination only to learn later that there were specific places you could have visited, but didn’t know about while you were there.

The truth about traveling is that it takes a lot of time and work to plan a trip to a new place. One can spend hours upon hours taking travel books out of the library, buying the ones you like best, talking with people who have been to the place(s) you’re going, reading comments on Trip Advisor, asking for advice from Trip Advisor contributors, making lists upon lists of things to do, and then finally making hotel and restaurant reservations. Private guides are wonderful but often expensive. Many people don’t have the time or don’t want to spend that much time planning their own trips.

Arts & Crafts Tours does all this advance planning for you and also gives you some free time for choosing your own restaurant for dinner or to go shopping if we are in towns or places big enough to make it worthwhile. Further, we never take more than 12 guests and sometimes our groups are smaller, so we can go places inaccessible to large bus groups.

Our tours are fun, well planned and you’ll learn something new almost every day.

Most of our advance planning work is done by Elaine with a lot of help from Peyton. Elaine has been offering these tours for more than 25 years. Over these years she has amassed an amazing network of contacts. These are people who are Arts & Crafts scholars, curators, authors and owners of private homes and art collections. We can therefore take you into places you would never be able to go on your own, and into public museums of all sizes in off-hours when the public is not admitted. You get to ask questions of people who really know the answers. We have also found that homeowners and curators are frequently so delighted to have knowledgeable people visiting, that they take the group into rooms not otherwise open to the public.

Elaine and Peyton have been friends for many years and as Peyton lives in London, and is a scholar and author of many books and articles related to the Arts & Crafts, he brings his own network of contacts to our planning. Together they select only guides who are knowledgeable and who are also engaging and fun to be with.

We don’t book hotels unless we have visited them, and usually have stayed in them. We reserve tables in restaurants we have visited before or have very positive references from people we trust. Further it is not unusual to have a reception, lunch or dinner in one or two of the private homes we visit. These experiences are a very special joy and are necessarily only available to small groups – we never take more than 12 guests.

It is our experience that people who come on our tours find our traveling pace not too slow and not too fast. We try to accommodate requests wherever possible. Often there is good collegial discussion on the coach rides as we travel to our next destination. After about the first day, we find that everyone is friendly and we often use place cards at dinner so that everyone gets to talk with new people and most people have an opportunity to talk with guides who are invited to have dinner with us. All our tours are escorted by at least two of us.

If you are an Arts & Crafts Movement enthusiast, or just curious about William Morris, C.F.A. Ashbee or Charles Rennie Macintosh, let us know. And please don‘t hesitate to come alone. As I said earlier, within hours you will have made new friends and as everyone has an interest in the Arts & Crafts, you will already have a lot to talk about. Our tours are fun, well planned and you’ll learn something new almost every day.

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Whether you have a starting interest in learning about the Arts and Crafts Movement or have a desire to see some of the most fascinating places, people, and artifacts of the era, join us on one or more of our upcoming tours and immerse yourself in history.

The Gothic Revival and the Arts and Crafts Movement

The Gothic Revival and the Arts and Crafts Movement

The Gothic Revival and the Arts and Crafts Movement

THE GOTHIC REVIVAL AND THE ARTS AND CRAFTS MOVEMENT
Peyton Skipwith

John Ruskin described Gothic as ‘not only the best but the only rational architecture… Undefined in its slope of the roof, height of shaft, breadth of the arch, or disposition of ground plan, it can shrink into a turret, expand into a hall, coil into a staircase, or spring into a spire, with undegraded grace and unexhausted energy.’ For many years I have described the Arts & Crafts Movement as being the secularisation of the Gothic Revival, while my old and much-lamented friend, Clive Wainwright, an inspired Keeper at the Victoria & Albert Museum, used to define it as ‘Gothic without the crockets’.

London's Houses of Parliament

Perhaps the most iconic British Gothic Revival building is the London’s Houses of Parliament.

During October I was lucky enough to be in Italy as well as Provence and Edinburgh, which set me musing. It was Ruskin’s love of Venetian and French Gothic that inspired Pugin and the Gothic Revival and it was the Gothic Revival in England that led, by evolution, to William Morris and the Arts & Crafts Movement – Scotland followed a little later, and for slightly different reasons.

Jessie King, who had been a fellow pupil with Charles Rennie Mackintosh at Glasgow School of Art, in her little book published by T.N. Foulis in 1910, dubbed Edinburgh The Grey City of the North. Why was it that it was in grey northern Europe rather than the sunny South that the seed of Gothic sprouted and blossomed into the Arts & Crafts? It can’t just have been the Protestant work ethic because the Cevennes, an hours drive from Uzés, a perfect Provençal medieval town, was a stronghold of Protestantism and, although it has a traditional pottery-making industry it has no vestiges of the Arts & Crafts Movement.

Uzes, Old Town, Edinburgh

Uzés Old Town, Edinburgh

The old town of Edinburgh, like Uzés, is clustered around its castle which is perched on the summit of a grim volcanic outcrop rather than overlooking the lush vineyards of the Gard. As one climbs towards the Castle, with its lowering grey towers, turrets, spires and stairways one is as near being in a mediaeval city as the modern world allows, until one comes in sight of Ramsay Gardens, an extraordinary arts and crafts infil, or rather slum clearance and replacement, with its houses built in red ashlar with white harling, clinging to the hillside like birds’ nests on a cliff face.

Ramsay Gardens

Ramsay Gardens was the dreamchild of the visionary town planner, Sir Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) and his wife. They were acutely aware that people, like bees, are social animals and, unlike most planners, were concerned with what he defined as ‘primary human needs’. To this end, rather than sweeping away the slums wholesale in the name of progress, he and his wife employed two little known local architects, Stewart Henbest Capper and Sydney Mitchell to create this imaginative scheme.

Geddes’ background and training was unusual. Although he never took a degree, he studied at the Royal College of Mines in London under T.H. Huxley in the 1870s, before moving on to University College as a demonstrator in the Department of Physiology, where he met Charles Darwin. At the end of the decade, he moved back to Scotland, first becoming Lecturer in Zoology at Edinburgh University, before being appointed to the Chair of Sociology at Dundee. A further Chair in Sociology was to follow when, in the wake of the First World War, he transferred for five years to the University of Bombay, before returning to Europe and founding Scots College at Montpelier.

His vision was always based on human values, in stark contrast to those of the next generation of planners inspired by Le Corbusier, whose Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles, was built only fifteen years after Geddes’s death. Le Corbusier’s ideas, about buildings being machines for living in led inexorably, particularly in post-1945 Europe, to the creation of some of the most soulless cities ever built.

The Arts & Crafts Movement was always about human values rather than theories, whether in architecture, furniture design, textiles, metalware, pottery, printing or even garden design, which accounts for its enduring appeal. As D.H. Lawrence wrote:

‘Things men have made with wakened hands,
and put soft light into
Are awake through years with transferred touch,
and go on glowing
For long years.’

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Whether you have a starting interest in learning about the Arts and Crafts Movement or have a desire to see some of the most fascinating places, people, and artifacts of the era, join us on one or more of our upcoming tours and immerse yourself in history.

A Look at the Works of George Howard, the 9th Earl of Carlisle

In 1977 I organized an exhibition at Morley College in South London of paintings by the then little known, and unappreciated, nineteenth-century painter George Howard, the  9th Earl of Carlisle (1843-1911), but in recent months his name keeps cropping up.  His delightful portrait of William Morris’s two daughters, Jenny and May, painted at Naworth, featured in the William Morris Gallery’s recent exhibition May Morris:  Arts & Crafts Designer, while his terracotta bust by Jules Dalou is currently on show until 7th May at Tate Britain - as is a bronze of his wife Rosalind - in the exhibition devoted to late nineteenth century French artists in exile.

In addition, when Elaine and I went to Rouen last month to see the exhibition of British Arts and Crafts in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, amongst the exhibits on loan from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, was a section of the painted panelling designed by Morris and Company for George and Rosalind’s London House, 1 Palace Green, designed for them by Morris’s favourite architect, Philip Webb.   William Morris had preceded us to Rouen as he and Burne-Jones made a tour of Normandy in 1855. ’What a wonder of glory that was to me when I first came upon the front of the Cathedral rising above the flower-market’, he wrote.  Elaine and I plan to revisit Rouen this spring and scout out a tour for next year following in the footsteps of Ruskin, Morris and Burne-Jones, as well as visiting Edwin Lutyens’ magical manor house, Le Bois des Moutiers, in the environs of Dieppe. But more about that in due course.

George Howard had no expectations of inheriting the Earldombeing the son of the fifth son of the 6th Earl, but a sequence of deaths - worthy of Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets, but without the sinister connotations -  led to him succeeding to the title on the death of his uncle, the 8th Earl.  Another uncle had briefly been the 7th Earl. This inheritance brought George vast wealth and estates across Yorkshire and Cumbria, including both Naworth Castle and Castle Howard, both of which feature in the June Garden Tour. Indeed the several nights we will spend at Naworth, a part mediaeval castle adapted by Philip Webb following a fire in the 1870s, is the ideal (and idyllic) setting in which to get a true sense of the erstwhile grandness as well as the eccentricity of the great English aristocrats of yesteryear.

As a schoolboy at Eton George had won a drawing prize for which he was given a volume of Ruskin’s Modern Painters; later, in the mid-1860s he studied painting under Burne-Jones at the South Kensington Schools. In the meantime he had married Rosalind, daughter of Lord Stanley of Alderley.   The Stanleys were among the more eccentric of English aristocrats - one of Rosalind’s brothers had been a parson in the Church of England, but when his father declined to give him the living at Alderley he not only left the priesthood but became a Mohammedan.  Another brother was a Roman Catholic Monsignor, while Rosalind became a Unitarian in order to have a platform from which to preach prohibition. The Dictionary of National Biography says of her ‘She would not be silent about convictions held with the intensity of a religion.’

Not everybody was so dispassionate.  My old friend Lawrence Toynbee, a great grandson of George and Rosalind’s, told a story of his grandmother, Lady Mary Murray, turning to one of her guests at a lunch party in her own home, and saying in stentorian tones ‘If you don’t believe in progress you may leave this house.’

In addition to many other delights the Garden Tour will give insights into this eccentric and aristocratic world.  Most of the bedrooms at Naworth, as well as staircases and corridors, are hung with George Howard’s beautiful oil landscapes, as well as sensitive portrait drawings.  He was a compulsive and sensitive artist, but conscious of his wealth he held back from selling his work in order not to compete with those who relied on sales for their living, which is why so much of his work remains in the family.

Thank you Arts and Crafts Homes!

Thank you Arts and Crafts Homes!

Thank you Arts and Crafts Homes!

Arts & Crafts Homes - Cover - March Issue

I am so excited to announce that Arts & Crafts Tours has been featured in an upcoming article in the popular Arts & Crafts Homes and The Revival magazine!

Here is an excerpt of the article:

Organized in concert with historic houses, art museums, and preservation organizations, personalized tours normally are attended by just 12 people. A handful of tours each year are pre-planned; others are specially created for an individual or a group.”

Read the article titled Bespoke Tours for Serious Students in its entirety at the Arts & Crafts Homes website.

 

 

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