The Arts and Crafts Movement in California Summary

Kenneth R. Trapp

The Arts and Crafts Movement in California

The Arts and Crafts movement arrived in America just prior to the turn of the century. As in England, where it began, the movement was a reaction to the garish, the uncomfortable, and the mass-produced. Its adherents were an odd mix of bohemians, scholars, socialists, and giants of commerce. In California, the movement’s philosophy was enthusiastically adopted by communities already encouraged in utopian ideals by the natural beauty and serenity of the underdeveloped coastal state. Several remarkable enclaves still bear witness to the optimism and creative force of the movement’s artisans, proponents, and sponsors.

In nine annotated essays by historians and museum curators, the Arts and Crafts communities of California are explored. The works of major figures such as architects Bernard Maybeck, Irving Gill, and the brothers Greene, and artisans Porter Blanchard and Ernest Batchelder are discussed in context of the whole movement. The paradox of the movement is also addressed: The simple life was expensive. Homes designed to appear rustic and unobtrusive were in fact estates that only the wealthy could build. Even the Mission style furnishings, admired for their simplicity, became affordable to the middle class only when they went into mass production.

The Oakland Museum’s exhibit is presented in more than two hundred photographs, representing a good overview of the movement’s artistic achievement. In addition to a fine bibliography and a thorough index, the book offers chronological biographies of artisans and their companies. Of special interest for readers intending to visit the exhibit, an exhibition checklist is also included.