A Spirit of Simplicity: American Arts and Crafts from the Two Red Roses Foundation
October 6, 2009 - January 3, 2010
The Flagler Museum's fall exhibition, A Spirit of Simplicity: American Arts and Crafts from the Two Red Roses Foundation, features nearly 150 objects illustrating the breadth of American Arts and Crafts style, including furniture, woodblock prints, stained glass, decorative tiles, pottery, and metalwork. The most significant producers of Arts and Crafts furniture and metalware will be represented, including works by Gustav Stickley and his Craftsman Workshops, Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters, and the Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts Colony. There will be beautifully colored woodblock prints by Arthur Wesley Dow and his followers. Also on display will be ceramic vases and decorative tiles by the Grueby Faience Co., Newcomb Pottery, Rookwood Pottery, and Van Briggle Pottery. A special feature of the exhibition will be re-creations of Arts and Crafts rooms containing works by Gustav Stickley and the Craftsman Workshops and by Charles Rohlfs.
The Arts and Crafts style began as a reformist movement in Great Britain in the 1880s, and gained popularity in Europe and America during the next decade. The movement was a reaction against negative changes brought to modern society by the industrial revolution. Practitioners were especially antagonistic toward poor-quality, mass-produced goods, and the unhealthy working conditions in many factories. The antidote to a modern, mechanized society seemed to be a return to handcrafted objects of good design.
American Arts and Crafts practitioners created not only beautiful objects but also sought to promote a healthy and morally uplifting lifestyle. In many cases utopian communities of craftsmen sprang up, such as the Roycrofters, adopting the medieval guild as their model. Craftsmen creating such goods took pride in their work, avoiding what they saw as unfulfilling lives as drones in mechanized factories.
Whether unique and hand crafted or production items made by hand or machine, American Arts and Crafts objects have simple, straightforward and honest designs. Because of the variety of objects in any price range, Arts and Crafts style was widely available and extremely popular. The well-designed and well-made objects included in this exhibition exemplify the goals of the Arts and Crafts movement in America.
All works included in the exhibition are on loan from the Two Red Roses Foundation, a private, non-profit educational institution in Palm Harbor, Florida, that promotes understanding of the American Arts and Crafts movement through the collection, conservation, exhibition, and interpretation of the decorative and fine arts. The Foundation was endowed by generous gifts from Florida businessman Rudy Ciccarello, who has assembled one of the largest personal collections of Arts and Crafts in America. A Spirit of Simplicity: American Arts and Crafts from the Two Red Roses Foundation is co-curated by Martin Eidelberg, Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University, and Tracy Kamerer, Chief Curator at the Flagler Museum.