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The craftsman
Vol. VII, No. 3 (December 1904)

Ross, Denman W.
The arts and crafts: a diagnosis,   pp. 335-343 PDF (3.4 MB)

Page 335

DR. DENMAN W. ROSS 1% From Handicraft for
January, 1903
           HAT is the matter with the Arts and Crafts? Why is it
1that, in spite of a widespread interest, with much talk
Iand much activity, so little really good and satisfactory
J            work is produced? Consider the work of the early and
imiddle ages, of the Renascence, the work of our own
             colonial days, the work of the far east, of China and
Japan. We have many examples in our houses, in our museums,-the
masterpieces of earlier times. In comparison with these, the work
which we are doing is most unsatisfactory. I am thinking, of course,
of the work that is really ours, the work which we do upon the basis of
our own thought and effort, the work for which we are wholly respon-
sible. Good things are produced, very good things, but they are re-
productions or copies of fine things done long ago. All we do is to
adapt them to our purposes, to our needs, with very slight, if any, alter-
ations. The changes we make are rarely improvements, and our
copies and reproductions are not so good as they ought to be. Our
artists and craftsmen, the ablest of them, have settled down to a sys-
tematic imitation of historic examples, and the study of design is called
the study of "historic ornament." It is only the ignorant, we are
who imagine that they can produce any original work which will be
good. The wise have given up the idea altogether.
   The work which we do, when we follow our own impulses and
 disregard precedents, is often useful. It serves its purpose, but it
 generally fails in design or lacks technical perfection. If, as some-
 times happens, our work is good in its general conception or design, it
 is almost sure to be the work of some amateur or dilettante who has
 good taste and good judgment but no technical training, no skill. The
 work is well conceived, but badly done. More often the work is well
 executed, but wanting in design. In that case it is the work of a man
 who has technical training, who knows his trade, but has no idea of
 composition. He has never thought of design, and is, consequently,
 unable to bring the beauty of order into his work. His work may be
 useful, but it is not beautiful, so it cannot be regarded as a work of art.
 We rarely find in original work the combination of good design and
 good craftsmanship which, together, make art.

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