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Gustav Stickley and the American Arts and Crafts Movement

The San Diego Museum of Art will present “Gustav Stickley and the American Arts and Crafts Movement” June 18 through Sept. 11, an exhibition that will examine Stickley’s contributions to the history of American design and architecture during his most productive and creative period from 1900 to 1913. The exhibit will provide new insights into the artistic, commercial and social context of Stickley’s work, according to officials at the Balboa Park museum.
The exhibition, organized by the Dallas Museum of Art, is the first nationally touring exhibition to focus on the career of Stickley (1858–1942), one of the leading figures of the American Arts & Crafts movement.
From The Craftsman magazine to his own stores in New York, Washington and Boston, Stickley offered customers a complete lifestyle based on his philosophy of simple design and quality materials. Ranging from furniture to metalware and embroidered textiles to architectural designs, the majority of the more than 100 objects in the exhibition are from private collections and have never been seen before by the public.
One of the exhibition’s highlights will be the re-creation of the dining room first displayed in the 1903 Arts & Crafts Exhibition organized by Stickley and exhibited in his Syracuse Craftsman Building. Other highlights include an armoire, ca. 1907-1912, which Stickley kept for his private use in the decades after he sold his business, and works showcasing his experimentation with different varnishes, which can still be seen as a patchwork of colors on the undersides of the drawers.
Also on view will be a rare armchair, c. 1903, with copper and wood inlay reflecting Stickley’s brief foray into decorated Arts and Crafts furniture influenced by the work of progressive British and Scottish designers.
The exhibition finds a particularly appropriate venue in San Diego, which has a rich heritage of Arts & Crafts architecture and decorative art.
Communities such as North Park and Mission Hills are well known for their historic homes from this era. Marston House, at the edge of Balboa Park, was designed by local architects William Sterling Hebbard and Irving John Gill and is one of California’s finest examples of the Arts & Crafts movement. San Diego also saw the production of Arts & Crafts pottery, tiles, and metal work.
The exhibition is accompanied by an 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.
Gustav Stickley was a furniture maker and architect as well as the leading spokesperson for the American Craftsman movement. Stickley formed the philosophy for his Craftsman furniture after encountering the British Arts & Crafts movement during trips to Europe in the mid-1890s. Before he discovered and began making Arts & Craft-inspired items, Stickley manufactured the mass-produced, ornamental, fad-driven furniture which he later denounced.
The Craftsman Home was the full realization of Stickley’s philosophy. While individual pieces of furniture used construction as decoration, embodied simplicity, and prioritized utility, these tenants were also implemented on a much grander scale within the home. Rejecting the extravagance of Victorian interiors, Stickley championed functional homes whose beauty derived from simplicity and harmony. As the center of family life, the living room exemplified these qualities. Furniture, built-in features, exposed structural elements, textiles, and colors coalesced “into place as if they had grown there.”
To properly achieve harmony and balance, Stickley believed each Craftsman room should have a central focal point from which the design of the rest of the space flowed. In the dining room, for example, this was often the table, but sideboards or china cabinets were sometimes chosen.
This exhibition features approximately 40 pieces of Stickley furniture which exemplify Gustav Stickley’s philosophy of living.
The exhibition is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Henry Luce Foundation. Publication of the exhibition catalogue is underwritten by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Windgate Charitable Foundation. The San Diego exhibition is supported by A.O. Reed & Co., the county of San Diego Community Enhancement Program, Lynne and Rob Hayes, The Karen and Michael Stone Family Foundation and Members of The San Diego Museum of Art. Institutional support for the Museum is provided by the city of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.

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We Want Your Opinions on San Diego’s Big Issues In the coming months, Probosky Research (one of California’s leading opinion research firms) will continue its partnership with SD METRO to survey San Diego residents about topics of interest to our readers. We’d like to throw open the door for suggestions for topics. What do you want to know? What do you think you know, but aren’t sure? What are you certain you know, but want to prove it beyond doubt? Ideally, we’d like to see questions that have to do with public policy.

Some areas may include Mayor Filner’s first 100 days job performance, should the city be responsible for economic growth and the creation of new jobs, how important are infrastructure improvements to our daily lives (streets and bridges, etc.), how important is water independence, how satisfied are residents with public transit or how do city residents value Balboa Park and other open spaces? Do you believe the City Council should revive the Plaza de Panama plan for Balboa Park?

You can email Probolsky Research directly with your ideas: