Apostles of Beauty: Arts and Crafts from Britain to Chicago
November 7, 2009–January 31, 2010
Regenstein Hall


Responding to both the perceived inferiority of machine-made objects and the ills created by industrialization, the Arts and Crafts movement sought to restore dignity to labor and integrate art into daily life. In pursuit of these goals, many designers and theorists advocated handcrafting, stressed the integrity of materials and straightforward construction, and, for aesthetic inspiration, frequently looked to the natural world and non-Western cultures, creating stunning works still admired and collected today.

The exhibition traces the history of the Arts and Crafts movement through its complex stylistic and philosophical influences. Galleries explore the movement’s early roots in Britain and the impact of William Morris and his group on the next generation of architect-designers; its intersection with the phenomenon of Japanism in both British and American design; the development of American Arts and Crafts style and its popularization through specialized periodicals; the connections between the movement’s philosophies and pictorialism in photography; and Chicago’s early acceptance of the British model and its later role in uniting hand and machine in the service of beauty.



Apostles of Beauty: Arts and Crafts from Britain to Chicago is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated, full-color catalogue that investigates different aspects of the movement in five essays authored by the museum’s curators in the Department of American Art. The first chapter by Field-McCormick Curator and department chair Judith A. Barter focuses on British Arts and Crafts, from its early roots to the influence of William Morris and his group on the next generation of architect-designers. Ellen E. Roberts’s essay explores how the 19th-century phenomenon of Japanism was manifested in both British and American design. Brandon K. Ruud chronicles the development of American Arts and Crafts style, concentrating on Elbert Hubbard’s Roycroft and Gustav Stickley’s United Crafts empires and the American movement’s commodification. Sarah E. Kelly investigates the overlapping philosophies of the Arts and Crafts movement and the pictorialist photographs of Afred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and others, with particular emphasis on questions of handcraftsmanship and the machine. And, in the final chapter, Barter discusses the craftsmanship particular to Chicago and its Prairie School architects, as well as the city’s collecting trends.

This catalogue is available for purchase online and in the Museum Shop.


Apostles of Beauty is organized by Field-McCormick Curator and Chair of American Art Judith Barter, with contributions by the department’s curators.


Support for this exhibition is generously provided in part by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

This exhibition is generously co-sponsored by Linda and Vincent Buonanno.

Arthur Wesley Dow. Boats at Rest, c. 1895. Through prior acquisition of the Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection.
Attributed to George Prentiss Kendrick. Decoration attributed to Eva Russell. Vase, 1903/09. Restricted gift of the Antiquarian Society; through prior acquisition of the B.F. Ferguson Fund; Skinner Sales Proceeds Fund; Wesley M. Dixon, Jr., and Roger and J. Peter McCormick endowments; through prior acquisition of the Antiquarian Society; The Goodman Fund; Simeon B. Williams, Harriet A. Fox, and Mrs. Wendell Fentress Ott funds; Highland Park Community Associates; Charles R. and Janice Feldstein Endowment Fund for Decorative Arts.
Designed by Annie E. Aldrich. Made by John Swallow. Decorated by Sarah Tutt. Vase, c. 1909. Vance American Fund; restricted gift of the Antiquarian Society.
Fritz Albert. Gates Potteries, a division of the American Terra Cotta and Ceramic Company. Vase, c. 1905. Promised gift of Crab Tree Farm Foundation.