David Cathers reveals the role of Arts and Crafts artisans, progressive architects, and craft firms that made electric lighting in the early twentieth century. They favored natural materials, such as wood, copper, shell, and mica. They used mostly traditional working methods, but they adopted a very modern technology: generated electricity. In their imaginative handling of this liberating source of illumination—incandescent electric light—they largely cast aside gas light, oil lamps, and candles to create functional, radiant beauty within the domestic sphere.
This talk includes many images of Arts and Crafts—and some Prairie School— lighting fixtures to illustrate the readily apparent point that this lighting is both beautiful and useful. But it will also stress the perhaps less evident point that these fixtures were “inevitable” because of the dramatic growth of industrialism in late 19th and early 20th century America and the proliferation of new, modern technologies during the Arts and Crafts era. Witness the mass generation and distribution of electricity, and the mass production of light bulbs and electrical fittings that made electric power more accessible and more affordable to an ever-widening consumer market. Thus, hand-wrought Arts and Crafts lighting fixtures were the products of highly skilled designers and artisans employing traditional materials and methods, and they were also products of irresistible commercial and technology changes that made their development inevitable.
David Cathers is a researcher and writer, author of Furniture of the American Arts and Crafts Movement (1981; rev. ed. 1996) and the biography Gustav Stickley (2003). He has also contributed essays on Gustav Stickley and the American Arts and Crafts movement to books and exhibition catalogues published by numerous institutions, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, Wadsworth Atheneum, Crab Tree Farm, the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms, and the Dallas Museum of Art. For Two Red Roses Foundation, he authored Arts and Crafts Furniture from the Collection of the Two Red Roses Foundation (2014) and Arts and Crafts Lighting from the Collection of the Two Red Roses Foundation (2017). In 2005, he was the recipient of the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms’ Als ik Kan Award, and in 2017 the Arts and Crafts Research Fund honored him with the Arts and Crafts Lifetime Achievement Award.
$35 general public / $25 members
Photo: Blacker house living room fixture, Greene and Greene. Courtesy of Two Red Roses Foundation.