Gustav Stickley and the American Arts & Crafts Movement
Dallas Museum of Art
Opens February 13, 2011
Gustav Stickley and the American Arts & Crafts Movement is the first nationally touring exhibition to offer a comprehensive examination of the work of one of the leading figures of the American Arts and Crafts movement, Gustav Stickley. Organized by the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA), the exhibition will examine Stickley’s contributions to the American Arts and Crafts movement during his most productive and creative period, from 1900 to 1913. Ranging from furniture to metalware to embroidered textiles, the majority of the objects on view are from private collections and three-quarters have never been seen before by the public.
The exhibition will provide new insights into the artistic, commercial, and social context of Stickley’s entry into the Arts and Crafts realm, the ideological development of his enterprise and the formation of the Craftsman home and lifestyle. It will also illuminate the vibrant identity of the “Craftsman” that Stickley developed and furthered through the creation and promotion of his furniture and household goods. A major highlight of the exhibition is the re-creation of a dining room arranged and furnished by Stickley that was originally designed for his 1903 Arts and Crafts Exhibition in Syracuse, New York.
Curated by Kevin W. Tucker, The Margot B. Perot Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the Dallas Museum of Art, Gustav Stickley and the American Arts & Crafts Movement will premiere at the Newark Museum of Art on September 15, 2010, to coincide with the 100th birthday of Stickley’s home, Craftsman Farms, in Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey. The exhibition will subsequently open at the Dallas Museum of Art on February 13, 2011, and at the San Diego Museum of Art on June 18, 2011.
“Until now, no one exhibition has brought forth such a comprehensive study of the most exceptional work of Stickley’s career, nor explored the aesthetic and meaning of these objects as lenses on the era and the American Arts and Crafts movement,” said Bonnie Pitman, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. “Gustav Stickley and the American Arts & Crafts Movement will provide new perspective on design, production, and dissemination of his firm’s work. The exhibition will also provide a deeper understanding of the remarkable legacy of his artistic enterprise in transforming the vision of the ideal household of the early 20th century.”
Stickley (1858–1942) was one of the leading figures in the Arts and Crafts movement in the United States. Stickley, unlike his predecessors in the English movement, began his career as a furniture factory owner, and only began to discover the precepts and stylings of the movement in the late 1890s. Balancing the core principles of the movement, with its emphasis upon the functional and handmade, and integrating it within a factory production system, Stickley’s firm made Arts and Crafts furniture, metalwork, and textiles widely available at a reasonable cost through retailers across the United States. Between 1900 and 1913, his most creative period and the era that is the focus of the exhibition, Stickley published The Craftsman magazine (1901–1916), which became a leading national journal of the movement’s ideals.
“During these years, Stickley’s firm produced works that embodied a bold new simplicity, forthrightness, and stability in the face of tumultuous times,” said Kevin W. Tucker, The Margot B. Perot Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the Dallas Museum of Art. “Not content simply to create these items, Stickley and his employees shaped and promoted the ideological framework of the Arts and Crafts movement where these beautiful, useful, and simple objects were presented as integral to a better way of living.”
This exhibition will include more than one hundred works produced by Stickley’s designers and workshops, including furniture, metalwork, lighting, and textiles, along with architectural drawings and related designs. One of the exhibition’s highlights will be the re-creation of the dining room first displayed in the 1903 Arts and Crafts Exhibition organized by Stickley and exhibited in his Syracuse Craftsman Building. The model dining room was a sensation, attracting the attention and admiration of many visitors. A period photograph of the original room corroborates the acclaim, showing a beautifully orchestrated setting that includes oak and burlap wall coverings, a Donegal carpet with stylized floral motifs, and refined Grueby Pottery vessels on the table and sideboard. One of the masterpieces on display in the re-creation will be a linen chest, now part of the DMA’s collections, made especially for the room, along with a selection of related furnishings that have not been reunited since 1903. The massive linen chest with its low profile, refined lines, and simple wrought-iron fittings is a stunning example of Stickley’s designers at the height of their creative powers.
Other highlights in the show include:
- An armoire, c. 1907–1912, which Stickley kept for his private use in the decades after he sold his business. Even after he left the business, Stickley continued to experiment with different varnishes, which can still be seen as a patchwork of colors on the undersides of the drawers in the armoire. The piece is a personal testament to his enduring creative spirit and energy.
- A chalet table, c. 1900, represents Stickley’s break from the ornamental language of the past century. The boldly simple design is among his firm’s most seemingly prescient designs.
- A unique three-fold leather screen, c. 1902–1905, with tooled floral ornamentation. While Stickley’s firm, under the name United Crafts (c. 1901–1903), reputedly produced a selection of furnishings with decorated leather surfaces, this is the only known, surviving example.
- A rare armchair, c. 1903, with copper and wood inlay reflects Stickley’s brief foray into decorated Arts and Crafts furniture influenced by the work of progressive British and Scottish designers. The form of the sled-footed chair is equally influenced by European sources, yet its elegant realization is distinctly American in character.
About Gustav Stickley
Born in 1858 in Osceola, Wisconsin, Gustav Stickley was a leading figure of the American Arts and Crafts movement. Apprenticed as a stone mason as a young man, Stickley moved as a teenager with his family to Pennsylvania, where he began to learn furniture making at his uncle’s chair factory. He opened his first furniture company in 1888, partnering with Elgin Simonds to form the Stickley & Simonds Company. A decade later—following his travels to Europe, where he was exposed to progressive furniture designs, including those produced by Liberty of London—Stickley assumed control of the firm, renaming it the Gustav Stickley Company. In 1901, the year following his introduction of a new line of Arts and Crafts furniture, the firm was renamed the United Crafts. It was renamed again as Craftsman Workshops in 1903, with the expansion into metalwork, textiles, and home design, and remained so until its dissolution in 1916.
Stickley’s innovative and affordable wares quickly earned him critical and commercial success. His firm’s designs were exhibited at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, and included in a pavilion at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition, where they were seen by thousands of fairgoers. Stickley’s retail network, which eventually included over 100 stores across the United States, sold thousands of pieces of furniture each year, popularizing Stickley’s creations as exemplars of the Arts and Crafts movement; however, by 1915 he was unable to maintain the successes of his prior years, and the firm entered bankruptcy. Following a brief and unsuccessful collaboration with his brothers, he retired from the furniture industry. Stickley died in 1942 in Syracuse, New York.
Exhibition Organization and Tour
Gustav Stickley and the American Arts & Crafts Movement was organized by the Dallas Museum of Art and curated by Kevin W. Tucker, The Margot B. Perot Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the Dallas Museum of Art.
The exhibition tour will include:
- Newark Museum (September 15, 2010–January 2, 2011)
- Dallas Museum of Art (February 13–May 8, 2011)
- San Diego Museum of Art (June 18–September 11, 2011)
This exhibition is supported by a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Publication of the exhibition catalogue is underwritten by the Henry Luce Foundation, the Windgate Charitable Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated 272-page catalogue, Gustav Stickley and the American Arts & Crafts Movement, by Kevin W. Tucker, The Margot B. Perot Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the Dallas Museum of Art, with essays and contributions by Beverly K. Brandt, David Cathers, Joseph Cunningham, and Beth Ann and Tommy McPherson and an introduction by Bonnie Pitman, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art.
Published by Yale University Press, the catalogue explores Stickley’s work and his dual roles as a visionary business leader and enthusiastic proselytizer of design reform. The full range of Stickley’s workshops is illuminated, including more than 100 objects of furniture, metalwork, and textiles, as well as architectural drawings and related designs, many of which are previously unpublished. Essays by distinguished contributors provide diverse viewpoints on the Arts and Crafts movement and Stickley’s evolving role as tastemaker, and the often contradictory messages conveyed through the construction and promotion of his designers’ works.
About the Dallas Museum of Art
Located in the vibrant Arts District of downtown Dallas, Texas, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and groundbreaking educational programs. At the heart of the Museum and its programs are its encyclopedic collections, which encompass more than 24,000 works and span 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Established in 1903, the Museum today welcomes more than 600,000 visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary readings and dramatic and dance presentations.
The Dallas Museum of Art is supported in part by the generosity of Museum members and donors and by the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas/Office of Cultural Affairs and the Texas Commission on the Arts.