Bush-Holley Historic Site

The Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich

Cos Cob, CT




Art for Everyday Living: The American Arts and Crafts Movement, 1890-1920


The movement that popularized "Mission" style furniture and bungalow style homes is the subject of an exhibition to open on April 16, 1999 at The Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich, home of Connecticut's first art colony.

The Arts and Crafts Movement was an international stylistic movement that turned everyday objects into artistic statements, valued hand-craftsmanship and rejected the industrial ideals of economy and profit. Inspired by an eclectic mix of English, Native American and Spanish arts and principles, the Movement promoted honesty, purity, simplicity of design and materials, and craftsmanship.

At its peak between 1890 and 1920, the Movement influenced decorative arts, architecture, and book and textile design. "Advocates strongly believed that through handicraft, either by making it or living with it, people would attain and enjoy a better life, " said Curator Karen Blanchfield.

Popularizers of the Movement in the U.S. included Louis Comfort Tiffany, Gustav Stickley, Stickley Brothers, Rookwood Pottery, The Roycrofters, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Examples of their work as well as those of local artists will be on display, including more than 50 objects from HSTG's collection as well as private collections. "With this show, we hope to help visitors learn more about the origins of and reasons for the increased popularity of a style that was born more than 100 years ago," said Debra Mecky, HSTG's Executive Director. Left: Leon Volkmar, Art Pottery Vases, c. 1920

How the Movement manifested itself in Greenwich is also an important component of the exhibition. The Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich is located at Bush-Holley Historic Site, where for more than 30 years, the Bush- Holley House and its surrounding neighborhood became the center of an American Impressionist art colony, attracting more than 200 artists. While well-known for being one of the birthplaces of American Impressionism, many other movements influenced the artists of the colony. In fact, the peak years of the American Arts and Crafts Movement coincide with the same years this art colony was operational (1890-1920).

Local artists such as potter Leon Volkmar and artist/craftsman Elmer Livingston MacRae, fully embraced the principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement, thus creating a significant link between the Movement and the art colony. In fact, MacRae and Volkmar exhibited their work as "Arts and Crafts" in exhibitions organized by the Greenwich Society of Artists, founded in 1912. Left: Elmer Livingston MacRae, "Peacock" Folding Screen, c. 1915

Other local connections featured in the exhibition include that of Ernest Thompson Seton, the famed Greenwich naturalist who founded the Boy Scout movement and started the Woodcraft School -an institution inspired by Native American arts and sensitivity and dedicated to reviving Native American handicraft; and Riverside, CT's own Hillacre Press -a quintessential Arts and Crafts printing shop.

The exhibition also includes a Hands-on History Gallery where families and students are invited to explore and try out the ideas behind this Movement, the objects produced and the different types of hand-craftsmanship. "Children will have fun while learning to touch, look, question, and respond, " said Jane Hoder, Curator of Education. Organized in conjunction with the exhibition is a series of public programs that includes lectures, children's hands-on workshops, guided tours, and a special trip to Gustav Stickley's home and farm in Parsippany, NJ.

Art for Everyday Living: The American Arts and Crafts Movement, 1890-1920, will be on view, free of charge, at the HSTG's Visitor Center's Galleries, at 39 Strickland Rd., Greenwich (Cos Cob), CT. The exhibition can be viewed on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 12pm to 4pm, Saturdays from 11am to 4pm, and Sundays from 1pm to 4pm. Guided tours of the exhibition and the Bush-Holley House are available on Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm and 3pm. The cost of the guided tours is $6 per person, free for children under 12. For more information, please call 203 869 6899 x10. This exhibition is underwritten by the Greenwich Historic Trust. The Hands-on History Gallery was underwritten by Mr. and Mrs. Dana G. Mead.


About Bush-Holley Historic Site

Founded in 1931, The Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich (HSTG) collects, preserves and disseminates the history of Greenwich, Connecticut. HSTG is located at Bush-Holley Historic Site, which features the c.1730 National Historic Landmark Bush-Holley House, home of Connecticut's first art colony. From 1890 to 1920, over 200 artists studied at the site with leading Impressionists John Twachtman, Elmer Livingston MacRae and Childe Hassam. Located on the banks of Cos Cob Harbor, the site also includes a hands-on history gallery, an interactive theater, a museum shop, and a research library and archives. Significant aspects of the region's and the nation's heritage are explored through innovative changing exhibitions, publications, walking tours, workshops, lectures, family programs, festivals, and school programs. HSTG also takes a leadership role in the preservation of Greenwich's architectural heritage-by recognizing and plaquing buildings of historical significance.

For hours and admission fees please see the Historical Society of Greenwich webpage.

Bush-Holley Historic Site is at 39 Strickland Road in Greenwich (Cos Cob), CT, 1/2 mile off 1-95's exit 4. The site is three blocks from the Cos Cob Metro North Station and less than an hour's train ride from New York's Grand Central Station.

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