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The Arts and Crafts movement was truly international; its most significant manifestations were in the United Kingdom, continental Europe, and the United States. A group of reformers, passionately committed to correcting the ills they saw in an increasingly industrial and urban society, chose the arts as their medium.

As the most industrialized country in the Western world, Britain made the first efforts to counter the malevolent aspects of mass production—the cost in human creativity and quality of life. John Ruskin, William Morris, and their followers championed the moral and spiritual uplift they believed would come from a return to handmade objects. The movement’s leaders also promoted the improvement of working conditions, the integration of art into everyday life, the unity of all the arts, and an aesthetic resulting from the use of indigenous materials and native traditions. They considered objects made with these intentions to be morally superior and to have the power to change people’s lives—convictions that still profoundly influence the way we judge good design today.

The Arts and Crafts movement offered a variety of responses to the challenges of modernity, and by 1900 it had spread throughout Europe and North America. The exhibition begins with an examination of how the British movement was introduced and disseminated in other countries through international exhibitions, periodicals, and travel (designers from all the countries where the Arts and Crafts flourished went abroad to promote their work and learn from each other). The sections that follow are devoted to design in the most representative countries—England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Scandinavia, Belgium, and the United States—demonstrating how Arts and Crafts ideals were transformed by each nation’s specific economic, cultural, and political conditions.

- Wendy Kaplan (2005)

Note: This online exhibition consists only of pieces from LACMA's collection that were included in the traveling show. To see more artwork from LACMA's Arts & Crafts exhibition, please see the curator's catalogue: The Arts & Crafts Movement in Europe and America: Design for the Modern World