PRESS RELEASE: Women of the Arts & Crafts Movement

First-Class Arts and Crafts works displayed at Britain’s Finest Arts & Crafts House

Women of the Arts & Crafts Movement
15 September 2017 – 1 January 2018

To launch the Autumn season, Blackwell, Britain’s leading Arts & Crafts House, presents a diverse exhibition highlighting the skills of the women artists and designers associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement. The exhibition showcases a broad range of disciplines from ceramics, jewellery and embroidery to metalwork, bookbinding and illustration, each displaying some of the finest work from the Arts and Crafts Movement. Artists featured include May Morris,  Mary Watts and Margaret Macdonald, as well as Ann Macbeth, Georgie Gaskin, Phoebe Anna Traquair, Jessie Marion King, and many others.

In anticipation of Lakeland Arts’ 2018 programme celebrating the 1918 Representation of People’s Act, in which women first received the right to vote in the UK, this exhibition recognises women artists whose contributions have often been overlooked, or wrongly attributed in favour of a more prominent male family member. The exhibition consists of works from private and public collections, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, National Museum of Scotland and The Hunterian, Glasgow.

The Arts and Crafts Movement is remembered as a period of change for women artists when female students were able to study art and design to a similar level as their male counterparts. Subsequently, there was an outpouring of talented young female artists during this period, who were greatly attracted to the principles and aesthetic of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Women exhibited their works, wrote essays and books on design and making principles, and taught at the schools.

However, even with this leap forward in equality within the art world, women were not able to join the Art Worker’s Guild, which was founded in 1884 and deeply inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement. As a result of this exclusion, the Women’s Guild of Arts was founded in 1907 by May Morris and Mary Elizabeth Turner. Members included some of the most notable figures in the Arts and Crafts Movement, who are also included in the exhibition at Blackwell. Morris clearly relished the opportunity to debate the latest artistic trends with her fellow members, “It is a pleasure to meet women who know their work and are not playing at art”.

In later years, many prominent women associated with the movement were forgotten, their works were sometimes wrongly attributed to their better-known fathers, brothers or husbands, or left hidden in museum storage. This exhibition invites you to explore and discover artists and their outstanding works you may not have encountered before.

Kerri Offord, Curator at Lakeland Arts commented, “This exhibition reveals the work of a number of overlooked designers and makers whose work shaped the Arts and Crafts Movement. These women were some of the first in Britain to have full time careers in the arts, creating beautiful and skilled works. It is definitely an exhibition where people can make discoveries and find hidden gems!”

Events

Accompanying the exhibition will be a talk featuring Dr Zoe Thomas, Lecturer in the History of Nineteenth Century Britain and the Wider World, University of Birmingham, who is currently writing the forthcoming publication, Women Art Workers and the Arts and Crafts Movement. To coincide with the exhibition at Blackwell, this talk on Tuesday 10 October will introduce the women associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement. More information about these events can be found on the Blackwell website.

Designed by architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott as a holiday home for his clients, today Blackwell is one of the finest examples of Arts and Crafts houses in the country. With beautiful interiors, regular temporary exhibits, a welcoming tea room and wonderful views across Windermere, Blackwell is open daily. For more information, visit blackwell.org.uk.

ENDS

For further information or images, please contact Jess Barrowclough at jbarrowclough@lakelandarts.org.uk
 
NOTES TO THE EDITOR

  • Exhibition curator, Kerri Offord is available for interview. To arrange a suitable time please contact Jess Barrowclough on 01539 888053 or at jbarrowclough@lakelandarts.org.uk
  • The carpentry at Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House was made by Arthur Simpson of Kendal, a master of Arts & Crafts carpentry.
  • Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House is one of Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott’s finest houses It was built 1898–1901, as a holiday home for Sir Edward Holt, a wealthy Manchester brewer. Blackwell has survived with almost all its original decorative features intact, and is listed Grade I as an outstanding example of British domestic architecture.
  • The original gardens were laid out by Arts and Crafts garden designer, Thomas Mawson, in a series of terraces to achieve the very best views from the house over the lake towards the Coniston fells.
  • The house has been open to visitors since 2001 and hosts regular exhibitions and tours.
  • Blackwell retains many of its original decorative features, including a rare hessian wall-hanging in the Dining Room, leaf-shaped door handles, curious window catches, spectacular plasterwork, stained glass and carved wooden paneling.
  • The rooms contain furniture and objects by many of the leading Arts & Crafts designers and studios - metalwork by WAS Benson, ceramics by Pilkingtons and Ruskin Pottery and furniture by Morris & Co., Stanley Webb Davies, Ernest Gimson and Baillie Scott himself.
  • The Main Hall at Blackwell was used as a space for gym class when Blackwell was a school. They also ice skated in front of the building and had a school donkey.
  • The inviting window and garden seats offer stunning views of the surrounding Lakeland.
  • Margaret Macdonald, Embroidered Silk Lampshade Panel (detail), c.1903 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
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