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17 March to 24 July 2005
Sponsored by Heal's

The V&A's major spring exhibition, International Arts and Crafts, will be the most comprehensive ever UK exhibition on the movement and the first to look at it from a truly international perspective. It will show how Arts and Crafts originated in Britain in the 1880s and became the first British design movement to have widespread influence internationally as the ideas spread to America, Europe, Scandinavia, and Japan.

On display will be more than 300 of the best Arts and Crafts objects from simple folk craft to sophisticated objects made for wealthy patrons. Among the highlights will be four specially created room sets emphasising the importance of the Arts and Crafts home and interior. There will be two British sets (one urban and one rural), one American 'Craftsman' room and one Japanese 'model room' dating from 1928, recreated through recently rediscovered objects.

More than 300 of the best Arts & Crafts objects will be on display including textiles, stained glass, furniture, ceramics, metalwork, jewellery, books, architecture, photography, paintings and sculpture.

Highlights include objects by influential British designers such as Voysey, Mackintosh, Ashbee, Morris, Baillie Scott and De Morgan; a group of Russian objects that have not been exhibited abroad before; four metres wide stained glass doors by Californian designers, Greene and Greene; and Japanese objects by Bernard Leach and Hamada Shoji.

The objects have been drawn from private and public collections all over the world with around a third coming from the V&A's own collections.

Arts and Crafts was both a movement and a style, a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and its machine dominated production. Led by John Ruskin and William Morris, the movement promoted the ideals of craftsmanship, individualism, and the integration of art into every day life. The movement challenged the hierarchy of the arts to raise the status of craftsmen. It also advocated social reform through improved workshop conditions, a return to workshop production and a simpler way of life.

The exhibition will show that while handicraft and the simple, country life was the ideal, the movement was also sophisticated, intellectual and urban. It had a strong commercial basis and a desire to influence industrial design and manufacture.

The exhibition will explore the influence of Arts and Crafts throughout the decorative arts across all spectrums of society from furniture made for country cottages to highly crafted silver, glass, textiles and fine art made for aristocratic houses.

Arts and Crafts changed the way we think about design and the value we place on the way things are made today. It laid the foundations for new approaches internationally to design and lifestyles in the twentieth century through new attitudes to work, design and the home.

The exhibition looks at the different ways the Arts and Crafts ideas were interpreted from country to country. The movement flourished in Britain in the 1880s. It then spread internationally to America from 1890 to 1916 and continental Europe and Scandinavia from 1880 to 1914, before its final manifestation as the Mingei (Folk Craft) movement in Japan between 1926 and 1945.

In America, the movement flourished in the mid-West, upstate New York, Boston and California. In Scandinavia, Austria, Russia and Germany, the Arts and Crafts ideology led to a revival of nationalism as craftsmen returned to indigenous materials and native traditions. Each section of the exhibition, which will be organised geographically, will explore the distinctive characteristics of the Arts and Crafts movement as it developed in countries or regions from England to Japan.

International Arts and Crafts follows the V&A's highly successful "style" exhibitions on William Morris in 1996, Art Nouveau in 2000 and Art Deco in 2003. The V&A's Modernism exhibition will open in Spring 2006.

After London, the exhibition will travel to the Indianapolis Museum of Art from 27 September 2005 to 22 January 2006 and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (de Young) from 18 March to 18 June 2006.


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