First Nationally Touring Exhibition of the Work of Gustav Stickley, Patriarch of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, Organized by Dallas Museum of Art

Organized by DMA, Gustav Stickley and the American Arts & Crafts Movement Highlights Stickley’s Most Creative and Productive Period from 1900 to 1913

On February 13, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) inaugurates Gustav Stickley and the American Arts & Crafts Movement, 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 DMA, the exhibition examines Stickley’s contributions to the American Arts and Crafts movement during his most productive and creative period, from 1900 to 1913. Ranging from furniture and metalware to embroidered textiles and architectural drawings, the majority of the objects on view are from private collections and three-quarters have never before been seen by the public. 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 premiered in September 2010 to critical acclaim at the Newark Museum in conjunction with the centennial celebration of the designer’s New Jersey home, Craftsman Farms. “Stickley’s brand of thoughtful, all-over inquisitiveness helped give his design works an enduring, intelligent character. Today, echoing that spirit, they remain emblems of an engaged and purposeful way of thinking about—and of living in—the world,” praised Art & Antiques magazine. “A handsome show, comprehensive without being overwhelming,” wrote the Wall Street Journal, noting that Stickley’s designs reveal the hand of “a superbly refined craftsman responding to the artistic Zeitgeist.” The exhibition will be on view at the Dallas Museum of Art from February 13 to May 8, 2011, and will subsequently open 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 provides new perspectives on the design, production, and dissemination of his firm’s work. The exhibition also offers a deeper understanding of the remarkable legacy of his artistic enterprise in transforming the vision of the ideal household of the early 20th century.”

The exhibition provides 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 also illuminates the vibrant identity of the “Craftsman” that Stickley developed and furthered through the creation and promotion of his furniture and household goods.

Gustav 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. From 1901 to 1916, Stickley also published The Craftsman magazine, 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 includes more than 100 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 is the re-creation of the dining room first displayed in the 1903 Arts and Crafts Exhibition organized by Stickley and presented in his Syracuse Craftsman Building. The model dining room was a sensation, attracting the attention and admiration of many visitors and critics. A period photograph of the original room corroborates the acclaim, showing a beautifully orchestrated setting that includes oak and fabric wall coverings, a Donegal carpet with stylized floral motifs, and richly modeled Grueby Pottery vessels on the table and sideboard. One of the masterpieces on display in the re-creation is a unique 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 bold wrought-iron hinges and lock fittings is a stunning example of the work of Stickley’s designers at the height of their creative powers.

Other highlights in the show include:

  • An armoire, c. 1907–1912, that 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), produced a selection of furnishings with decorated leather surfaces, this is the only known surviving example of its type.
  • 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.

Visitors will be able to explore the exhibition with a smARTphone tour featuring an audio tour by exhibition curator Kevin W. Tucker, text on the history of Gustav Stickley’s enterprise, excerpts from catalogues and magazines published by Stickley, and additional Arts and Craft works in the DMA’s decorative arts and design collection. Visitors can access the tour on Wi-Fi–enabled smartphones and media players at DallasMuseumofArt.mobi. In one of the exhibition’s galleries, an interactive touchscreen provides additional information on individual pieces featured in the 1903 model dining room. In this same gallery are five pieces of furniture by the L. & J.G. Stickley Company, modern reproductions of Gustav Stickley designs that visitors are encouraged to sit on and touch.

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 stonemason 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. 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 in 1898, 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. Approximately concurrent with the expansion into metalwork, textiles and home design, it was renamed again as Craftsman Workshops in 1903, and remained so until its dissolution in 1916.

Stickley’s innovative and affordable artistic 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. However his chief success came via a retail network, which eventually included over 100 stores across the United States, selling thousands of pieces of furniture each year and popularizing Stickley’s creations as exemplars of the Arts and Crafts movement. But 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 includes the following venues:

  • 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)

The exhibition is supported by a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by DMA patrons and supporters with funds raised through Silver Supper 2010 and from the Donor Circle membership program through leadership gifts by the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas. Publication of the exhibition catalogue is underwritten by the Henry Luce Foundation, the Windgate Charitable Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Air transportation in Dallas is provided by American Airlines. Promotional support provided by Stacy Furniture.

Exhibition Catalogue
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 welcomes approximately 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.

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For more information, please contact:
Jill Bernstein
Dallas Museum of Art
JBernstein@DallasMuseumofArt.org