International Rivalry in the Decorative Arts in the 1890s

Introduction by Alexander Watt; Translated by Paul Stirton

The introduction and translation appeared in the Vol. 24 No. 2 / Fall–Winter 2017 issue of West 86th.

“L’enseignement de l’art dans les écoles: Conférence faite à l’École des arts industriels de Roubaix par M. Victor Champier” was originally published in Revue des arts décoratifs 13 (1893–93): 248–50.

“Une mission en Amérique” was originally published in Le Figaro, November 2, 1893.

“Les arts décoratifs de L’Angleterre jugés par un français” was originally published in Revue des arts décoratifs 14 (1893–94): 247–59.

by Alexander Watt

Anxiety over international competition in the decorative arts and the need to respond effectively is a theme that runs throughout much of the discourse on design in the nineteenth century. The commercial imperative of maintaining export markets may have been the fundamental issue, but the debate surrounding the role of the decorative arts in modern society was rarely limited to the economic realm alone. National pride was a key motivating factor, and it was this, more than bald economic advantage, that seemed to catch the eye of the public and designers alike.

The British might be said to have started this debate in the 1830s when a Select Committee on Arts and Manufactures was formed

to inquire into the best means of extending a knowledge of the Arts and of the Principles of design among the People (especially the Manufacturing Population) of the country; also to inquire into the constitution, management and effects of Institutions connected with the Arts.1

The underlying aim was to consider why British goods were not achieving their full potential in the international market, especially in competition with their French counterparts. As the century wore on, these concerns expanded due to new competitors—primarily Germany and the USA—but the central problem remained the same: how could the nation that had pioneered the Industrial Revolution, which (in their own view) had established the finest liberal democracy and produced the highest forms of literary achievement, still be lagging behind in the decorative arts and the design of manufactured goods? What emerged from this in Britain was, of course, the entire program of “Design Reform”: initially through the creation of “Government Schools of Design” in London and in the new industrial cities (Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, etc.) during the 1830s and 1840s, then through the hosting of the first international exhibition in 1851, and finally through the establishment of a series of museums and elite training schools in South Kensington.2

The French were not slow to recognize the potential impact of these developments in a field where they regarded themselves as preeminent. As early as 1852, commentators were urging the government of Napoleon III to respond to initiatives in England, and in his 1856 report on the Great Exhibition in London, Léon de Laborde drew attention to the fact that France was in danger of losing its dominant position in the decorative arts.3 In particular, Laborde emphasized that the creation of government-sponsored schools of design and museums devoted to the decorative arts gave British design and manufacturing an advantage over its rivals on the continent. Laborde, a former curator of the Louvre, saw this as an issue concerning both national pride and economic policy.4 In addition, he saw the reform of design training as an opportunity to modernize the styles and techniques of the decorative arts currently being produced in France. On this latter point, he was implicitly advocating that education and sponsorship could help to free French design and craftsmanship from its dependence on historical styles. There was no consensus on this point, however, and the debate on historicism as opposed to “modern” styles would rumble on in France throughout the second half of the century. Nevertheless, in the wake of Laborde’s report, several key organizations were established to support the decorative arts, the most important being the Union centrale des beaux-arts appliqués à l’industrie, which was founded in 1864.

Jean-Joseph Weerts, Portrait of Victor Champier, 1912. Musée d’art et d’industrie André Diligent (La Piscine), Roubaix.

If there was uncertainty over France’s economic position in the 1850s and 1860s, the succeeding decades proved to be even more alarming for French society as a whole, as well as for the decorative arts industries. The disastrous defeat in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870–71 was followed by an economic downturn in the early years of the Third Republic, thus rendering concerns about France’s status in the competitive marketplace even more critical. In this context, the decorative arts received close attention, not merely as a source of foreign export revenue but as an index of the health of the nation. Publications like Marius Vachon’s “Our Industries in Peril” were typical of a larger discourse in which the decorative arts were held up as the standard-bearers of French status and influence abroad.5 Indeed, Vachon continued to raise the temperature on this topic in polemics like “The Crisis of Industry and Art in France and Europe” (1885), although his real influence was felt in the series of official reports he prepared on how the structure of industry and education related to the decorative arts in other countries.6

In 1882, the year of Vachon’s first polemic, the Union centrale des beaux-arts appliqués à l’industrie, amalgamated with the Sociéte du Musée des arts décoratifs to create the Union centrale des arts décoratifs (UCAD), probably the first effective body for the promotion of the decorative arts industries and their appreciation among the population at large.7 Through exhibitions and publications, UCAD sought to consolidate the position of the decorative arts in the hierarchy of the arts, largely by focusing attention on the masterpieces of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But UCAD was not merely a bastion of traditional values and historicist principles, evoking the great age of French elite culture. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, an ongoing debate about the role of the machine and factory production, as opposed to the old workshop/apprenticeship system and the activities of the merchands merciers, brought the central questions of modern consumerism back to center stage.8

It was into this milieu that Vincent Champier emerged. Born in 1851, he became secretary to the critic and author Gustave Vaporeau, with whom he edited La dictionnaire des littératures. This gave him an entrée into the world of publishing, and he was soon contributing to various journals devoted to literature and the visual arts. From an early stage in his career, Champier chose to campaign on behalf of the decorative arts, which he felt had been unfairly neglected and even downgraded in the eyes of academicians and government agencies he believed should have done more to restore France’s leading position. He served as secretary of the Société du Musée des arts, and in the 1880s he was a strong supporter of the campaign within the Union centrale des arts décoratifs to establish a museum devoted to the decorative arts. His most effective role, however, was as founding editor of La revue des arts décoratifs (1880–1902), the official organ of UCAD, from whose pages he was able to promote his views and engage in the debates of the day. Additionally, Champier participated in a number of official or government-sponsored projects. He was involved in the planning of the Expositions Universelles of 1889 and 1900, and he was commissioned to report back to the government on the representation of the decorative and industrial arts at both exhibitions. Expanding on this role, he was also commissioned to undertake visits to other countries to study the provision of museums and education in the decorative arts, very much as Vachon had done. In fact, Champier contributed the report on the United States alongside Vachon’s reports on Europe as part of the combined résumé on the decorative arts in other countries that appeared in 1894.9 His visit to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago of 1893 was particularly significant, attracting widespread general interest as well as inspiring a number of publications and lectures by Champier to professional bodies.10 The short newspaper report translated below, “Une mission en Amérique,” gives only a taste of his views on recent developments in the industry and the applied arts of the United States.

Champier had a particular interest in ceramics and printed textiles, which comes through in these texts. For example, he was a close friend and correspondent of the glass artist Émile Gallé, and in 1908 he was strongly favored as the next general director of the Manufacture de Sèvres, although that position was ultimately given to another. He was more successful at Roubaix, a leading center of printed textiles on the outskirts of Lille in the industrial northeast of France, where he was made director of the National School of Industrial Arts in 1902. In the light of this appointment, one can perhaps read an element of opportunism into the 1892 lecture translated below where he goes out of his way to praise the design work and general standard of industrial production at Roubaix to his, no doubt, appreciative audience. It is equally significant that his concluding remarks reminded the audience that the competition for markets in manufactured goods could be regarded as a continuation of the ongoing struggle against Germany.

The third piece by Champier, “Les arts décoratifs de l’Angleterre jugés par un français,” is something of an oddity, but it is very revealing as to the differing standards around which the decorative arts were assessed in Britain and France in the 1890s. This was a moment when progressive critics in both countries felt that the new movements in design and crafts had achieved such a degree of confidence and distinctiveness as to constitute a changing of the guard. In Britain, this was the decade that saw the full emergence of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, the organization through which William Morris’s views gained their most widespread acceptance. In France, by contrast, there was much talk about the emergence of a “new art” based upon nature and the Orient, which would find its greatest expression in the decorative arts for the home. At this point, the chauvinism of the leading French spokespeople was probably at its height, and the corresponding opinions of current work in rival countries were particularly loaded with suspicion and insecurity. This would explain some of Champier’s condescending remarks with regard to British history and taste, although such views were already part of a long tradition of hauteur on the part of French commentators about the decorative arts. It is surprising, nevertheless, to read such openly dismissive comments at a time when Champier and his colleagues in UCAD were imploring their government to introduce measures similar to the British so that French designers and craftspeople would not fall behind their foreign rivals. Champier is at pains to emphasize that British design and crafts have undergone something of a revolution at the hands of Morris and his followers, although he sees this as a phenomenon driven more by theory than by design or craftsmanship. There is ample justification for his view, especially since, as Champier points out, most of the leading figures in the movement were also prolific writers on design, politics, and taste. Champier’s attempts to grapple with the theories that inspired many supporters of the Arts and Crafts movement remain fairly simplistic, not to say naïve, but he is drawing attention to a marked difference between the design cultures of the two countries.

Despite Champier’s inability to grasp the central tenets of the Arts and Crafts movement, there remains an undeniable streak of superiority to his views. Any positive developments he identifies in England are only faintly praised, with an implication that the French could do the same if they wanted to. Only one figure escapes Champier’s condescension entirely: Edward Burne-Jones, whom he describes as a “triumphant figure” who “imbues all his creations with an intense, sharp, almost painful grace, so much so that the image is embedded in the depths of the soul.” This view was not unusual, since Burne-Jones had enjoyed a vogue in France among the Symbolists for almost a decade by this time. The fact that he was a committed participant in the crafts, albeit in a rather hands-off fashion, providing designs on paper for others to make up, granted him admittance to a special category of artist-designers with direct bearing on the current trends in Paris.

This praise for a few individuals notwithstanding, Champier’s views here reveal a great deal about the anxieties that surrounded the decorative arts in France at a moment when the country’s arts industries were entering a period of great prestige internationally. The years leading up to the Exposition Universelle of 1900 were still mired in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war and serious doubts about France’s position in the world, not least in those areas that touched on manufacturing, exports, national prestige, and the decorative arts. Out of this milieu, the confidence of the new generation of designers and makers reasserted France’s lead in the luxury industries, albeit in a critical environment racked with doubts and uncertainties as design reform swept through much of Europe and North America.

—Alexander Watt


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The Teaching of Art in the Schools: Report of a Lecture Given in Roubaix on February 11, 1892

Introductory remarks were given by Mr. Jules Lagache, Vice President of the Higher Council of the National School of Industrial Arts at Roubaix.


At the request of the Superior Council, the Minister for Education and Fine Arts has decided that several meetings should take place at the school to emphasize the advantages our industry may derive from the teaching provided within this establishment and to point out the means of maintaining this progressive education in the light of our competitors’ examples.

Mr. Victor Champier, director of the Revue des arts décoratifs, was appointed to give the first of these lectures and took as his subject: “The Decoration of Textiles in France at the End of the Nineteenth Century and the Efforts of Foreign Competition.”

It would be superfluous to offer praise of Mr. Champier, whose high competence is well known and whose remarkable works are so justly appreciated. I shall not, therefore, enter into any further discussion so as not to delay the moment when we can hear his eloquent speech. I cannot conclude these opening remarks, however, without thanking him for his excellent guidance.

With great authority, the speaker, employing an abundance of artistry, held his audience under the spell of words both elegant and instructive for an hour. After a delicate and enthusiastic tribute to Roubaix and its industrial renown, the speaker pointed to the ever-growing dangers of foreign competition: it was now a fierce struggle for honor and survival, in which the government of the Republic intends to intervene with the utmost energy in defense of French industry, said Mr. Champier.

The speaker expounded on how the industrial arts had suffered from exclusion in official circles for a long time, and why their various classifications should not be united under the general heading of “Beaux-Arts.” In recent years, justice and reason have been served by giving industrial art a place in the Musée du Luxembourg. Mr. Champier would like to see the creation of a special inspectorate of industrial and decorative art, since this art, being the true art of life, demands a talent and knowledge so vast and responds so well to the needs of both our modern private life and our democratic society.

Textiles must be mentioned among those industries that require the charms and seduction of art. In an enchantingly imaginative, poetic style, Mr. Champier explained how textiles have the most diverse applications. In this, France possesses a brilliant superiority; however, competitors in many other countries have grown in their desire to unseat us from our commanding role in the art-related industries by establishing schools for textiles.

The reports of the Universal Exhibitions all point to the imminent and disturbing danger of foreign competition: cries of alarm were uttered by Mr. Jules Simon in 1878 and, following him, the president of the Chamber of Commerce of Lyon in 1881. We shall see at the forthcoming Chicago Exhibition whether their apprehensions were justified.

Foreigners have made such great progress thanks to the schools they have organized in a marvelous manner and for which they have spent colossal sums. See, for example, the schools of Germany, especially that in Krefeld, which cost two million francs and was built specifically to compete with Lyons and the brilliant school of Roubaix. The Krefeld school has a museum that contains genuine masterpieces of textiles: this is an innovation that the speaker would like to see in Roubaix as well.

M. Champier then considered the English schools that have made great strides in the teaching of textile design and production: the weaving school of Manchester, the even more important school of Bradford, and especially the school of the Kensington Museum, whose superb products attest to the remarkable ability of its instruction. However, these days England looks especially to Germany in the field of textiles; it is a patent fact.

In Austria, there are twenty-nine schools specifically dedicated to textiles. In Switzerland, the speaker cited chiefly the remarkably intelligent efforts of the school of St. Gallen, which was expressly founded with the avowed aim of competing in a direct and disturbing way with the city of Lyons. The speaker also made mention of the schools in Russia, America, and Italy, pointing out the interesting products of the last of these nations, which were shown at the recent Palermo Exhibition.

Mr. Champier then alluded to the involvement of the 2,500 textile designers in Paris. The president of the textile designers association, the eminent Mr. Arthur Martin, requested the support of the city council to create a large professional school of pattern designers for woven, printed, and embroidered fabrics. The stated reasons on which Mr. Martin based his request testify, yet again, to the dangerous threat we face from the Germans and the Swiss.

Certainly, Paris is still the queen of fashion when it comes to designing fabrics. But given the exertions of young minds abroad, how long will this regal status last? Thus the speaker hoped that Roubaix would manage to dispense with any dependence on Paris and begin designing the textiles produced here on its own. The youth of Roubaix, instead of being deceived by the mirages of the capital, could bring profit to Roubaix using what is learned in Roubaix. In a word, Roubaix has its own designs and its own distinctive mark, not merely for its perfect manufacturing. Roubaix should show that the superiority of its art is equal to the superiority of its business and industry.

Having once again praised the school of Roubaix, Mr. Champier added that, while the industrial and scientific instruction was irreproachable, the artistic side was not sufficiently taught to young people so as to direct their budding imaginations. To learn to draw, they should have before their eyes living flowers and unstuffed birds, to witness all the flavor, the unexpectedness, the picturesqueness, and the amusements of life. Accordingly, the speaker would like to see an aviary set up at the school and the vigorous planting of flowers, which would soon yield serious results. From this point of view, one must admire Japanese art, which renders everything that lives and breathes in nature with so much intensity.

To conclude, M. Champier reminded us of Colbert’s words: “Good taste is, for France, the most skillful of trades.” And he added that he had not forgetten the words of the German sovereign in 1886: “We have defeated France on the battlefield; it is now a matter of defeating her on industrial and artistic ground, and we will triumph!”


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A Mission to America, 1893

Mr. Victor Champier has just returned to Paris. On the occasion of the Chicago Exhibition, he was commissioned by the minister for education and fine arts to study the situation of the arts industries and the organization of schools of industrial art in the United States.

He has created numerous reports on his journey to the principal cities of America, which are of the most vital interest from the point of view of the French artistic industries. He has visited most of the industrial schools, which were founded with great zeal during the last ten years in all parts of the United States, thanks to the generosity of a host of donors. By donating millions of dollars, rich American manufacturers and amateurs have established these schools, making a colossal effort to create an original artistic trend through them in hopes of soon surpassing products imported from Europe and rivaling French taste.

Already in America there are industries in which considerable progress has been made—with a rapidity that is really worrying to the future of French trade. In goldsmithery, jewelry, and glasswork, American artists display a real originality and perfection of execution that is not surpassed by our best manufacturers. In wallpaper design, woodworking, and furniture construction, they have achieved new effects owing to very ingenious processes that they invented. Wrought iron is commonly used by Americans, and they excel in works of this kind, executed partly by hand and partly by machine. In five to six years, these people have made extraordinary developments in terracotta work, and the exterior ornaments of almost every house are made of this material.

Mr. Victor Champier has studied the production of the various branches of the arts industries in America with great care, since they are a serious threat to French interests. Indeed, in order to preserve the many outlets in the New World for our artistic production, is it not urgent for France to devote its efforts in proportion to those of its American competitors? Certainly, we have much to do if we do not want to be left behind in more than one area at our next Universal Exhibition in 1900. Our French manufacturers must take note.

Various chambers of commerce, notably that of the city of Lyons, have asked Mr. Victor Champier to complete special reports on some technical subjects following the interesting mission entrusted to him by the French government. Everywhere Mr. Champier has visited—New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, the industrial centers of Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Providence, Paterson, Yonkers, and Grand Rapids—he was met with the most flattering and courteous response. “What we have become, we owe to France,” the artists said to him; “the least we can do is to open the doors of our workshops to you.”

Among the many samples of work produced by the arts industries in America on which Mr. Champier reported, we may mention some curious specimens of ceramics, fragments of kaolin from the state of Ohio as white and as pure as that of Limoges, and, finally, very beautiful vases of the manufactories of Rockrood [sic]. All these objects have been donated to the museum of our Sèvres manufactory.


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The Decorative Arts of England, Evaluated by a Frenchman

It is certainly a delicate task for a French writer to offer a categorical judgment on the decorative arts of England at the present time, just as it would seem difficult for an English critic, in a spirit of reciprocity, to formulate a similar appreciation of the decorative arts of France. Whatever talent one may presume on the part of these two judges, and taking into account the erudition or impartiality of which both may be capable, they will certainly encounter the same difficulties arising from the differences of race, the education of their taste, and the manner of their feeling.

Whether or not one likes it, despite their sincerest efforts, the critics will bring to their appreciations the distinctive qualities of their national temperament. If it were merely a question of pure reasoning about aesthetics or the philosophy of art, it would certainly be possible to agree, especially when approached with equal intellectual aptitude. But a work of art is the very opposite of an abstraction: there are many different elements in judgment that it provokes, and one’s impressions are modified according to individual temperament, to the more or less refined education of the senses, and even to the familiarity one has with certain external forms that are typical and symbolic for one country while they remain insignificant elsewhere.

The Orchard (or “The Seasons”), 1890, tapestry after a cartoon by William Morris (with John Henry Dearle), woven at Merton Abbey for Morris and Co., wool, silk, and mohair on cotton warp; 472 × 221 cm. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

All artistic peoples show in their works a very distinct originality that comes precisely from what they do not see—from the fact that they do not express nature and life as their neighbors do. The greater the intensity and personality in their works, the less they are able to understand or assimilate conceptions different from their own. The particular genius of a race asserts itself with so much more power in its art, as art involves more of its soul, more of its natural instincts, and more of its character. English art, in this case, is therefore defined more precisely in its relation to French art. The former has a very special flavor that creates no point of resemblance to the latter. There are general features that distinguish the two nations. To compare them would be a waste of time and a trouble. To trifle with the qualities of the other would be unjust and puerile. What is to be hoped for is that they might both develop in their normal sense, in accordance with their own traditions, their principles, and the genius of the two peoples.

These reflections are suggested by a close reading of Mr. Day’s very interesting study published in The Magazine of Art on the exhibition of French decorative arts which took place recently at the Grafton Gallery.11 The eminent critic judges my compatriots with an evident sympathy, but his appraisals, made naturally from an English point of view, will definitely not resonate with those at whom they are aimed and will likely pass over their heads without being understood.

In my turn, as a French writer, I will present in this collection the ideas I have drawn from examining the English exhibition of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society that opened last November in the galleries of Regent Street.12 I do not delude myself into thinking that my opinions will find any more credit with those that they concern. It is not without considerable reservations that I approach such a subject, for a man who lives by the banks of the Seine must have many uncertainties when talking about what goes on by the banks of the Thames! I shall, however, try to express my opinion clearly, and in order to understand how the English decorative arts are inclined to be appreciated in France, I shall begin with a brief historical summary of the two countries’ different destinies and evolutions.


In France, beginning in the Middle Ages, the arts were protected and directed by a remarkable ensemble of the clergy, the nobility, and the monarchy. Meanwhile in England, they developed by caprice, intermittently and without method, torn in different directions according to the spirit that prevailed in the centers of wealth from which they were commissioned. Thus, the Gothic style in England slipped into decadence faster than anywhere else.

It was much worse following Luther’s Reformation. Then art ceased altogether to be part of education and public life in Great Britain. The arts became suspect to the faithful of the new cult, were banned from the temple, and were considered as elements of moral corruption. They were no longer nourished by the deep roots of national life. Neither religious belief, which in all countries and at all times has been the fruitful inspiration of art, nor political passions, which agitate the crowd, could draw art from its torpor. If some lords and even certain kings, like Charles I, had the exceptional grace to admit art into their residences, it was only by considering it an amiable trifle, a futile entertainment. Art’s influence counted for nothing to the masses. The arts were not the common language that everybody understood from the Middle Ages onward, as in France, where painters and “imagiers” freely translated the vices and virtues of human comedy, the pains and joys of the humble or the rich. Little by little, the English public lost the use of art and forgot its meaning. The Puritan spirit and political scruples completed the disaffection of the people from all forms of art by rigorously applying the requirement that art be selfsupporting. Since the statesmen of England regarded art as a mere indulgence of luxury rather than an element of general education, they freely encouraged anyone to take pleasure in it, but they would not impose the smallest burden on the majority of the nation in this respect. Such was, if I am not mistaken, the attitude of the English government toward the arts until the middle of this century. What has been the result of all this? Abandoned to themselves, without direction, without support, without roots in the imagination and in the hearts of the masses, the arts were left to the hazards of circumstance. They alternately followed the banal routes of foreign imitation, sometimes under the influence of an aristocratic society that pushed them to archaeological reenactments and sometimes influenced by the pernicious prestige of fashion or of fleeting little seductions. Thus, from the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Society of Dilettanti gave impetus to this movement in favor of studying ancient monuments, from which emerged William Chambers, the author of Somerset House; Flaxman in sculpture; and Josiah Wedgwood in industry. But art cannot be transported like a parcel from one country to another. It was, therefore, a vain and unsuccessful attempt to reproduce the marvelous Greek models and to awaken in a chosen environment a feeling for the Beautiful, which did not spring from the imagination. English art began to turn, like a hamster in the archaeological wheel, producing pastiches in the styles of Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI, burlesque imitations of the Renaissance and the Gothic. Even today, English art is still at this point. It has not found its way. But, at least, now that the symptoms are apparent, one recognizes that it is finding its way. It needs to pull itself together.

Already, during the past two centuries, amidst all the imitative stylistic aberrations, English art has sometimes shown a remarkable tendency to assume a utilitarian character, responding to a secret instinct within the national temperament. Painters and sculptors were long reduced to cultivating only one genre: the portrait. That was all that was necessary to satisfy aristocratic vanities. In the decorative industries at the beginning of the eighteenth century, some pieces of furniture and some goldsmiths’ work had an aspect of solidity, a massive, powerful, and sober ornamentation, which took on the appearance of style and was not devoid of virile originality. But it was only by chance. English taste is made of indecision and contrasts. Whether it has been distorted overlong by the spectacle of models both good and bad, borrowed from almost everywhere, or whether it is only slowly disengaging, relying more on reasoning than on spontaneous feeling, it is certain that English art offers an incredible mixture of happy qualities and sharp defects. In France, when it is said of an object, “It is in the English taste,” then it has a simple, well-proportioned form, a careful execution, and a sober design in exact relation to its purpose. Or it is absolutely horrible, without the slightest feeling of art, consisting of sharp and shrill tones and of contradictory ornamentation. And, indeed, in the streets of London, in sumptuous dwellings, and in clubs, one is struck by this perpetual contradiction. Alongside imposing, plush luxury that is of good quality and of an agreeable harmony, the English tolerate accessories that are so ugly a Parisian would have a nervous breakdown. How can one be found beside the other without English eyes being offended, without a cry of indignation and the rising of disapproval? That is what we cannot explain.

In the absence of spontaneity and of that sensitivity in taste that makes us reject all that is inelegant and inharmonious, England, on the other hand, possesses an admirable good sense when it cares to apply it. For fifty or sixty years, she has shown what reasoning can produce in the applications of art to industry. She has studied a certain number of functional objects and familiar utensils, and subjected them to the simple rules of common sense. She has examined the decoration best suited to the purpose of certain objects and the most appropriate form, and she has discovered a certain number of ideal types. For example, the English have long sought a handheld water jug that can hold as much water as possible without being vulnerable to tipping over or having a too fragile base, and they devised a stocky, swollen form with an opening proportioned for fast, abundant pouring. England also sought and discovered the best form of teapot that suits her needs. Additionally, jugs, large bowls, bell jars, and also some furniture have been developed, which, if not elegant, at least have an essentially practical character.

Couch in the Pompeian style designed by Lawrence Alma Tadema, made by Johnstone, Norman & Co., London, mahogany, satinwood, ebony, cedar, mother-of-pearl, brass, silk; modern upholstery with original leather straps. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

In regard to the problem of identifying a definitive style that responds to the needs of modern society and to the needs of mechanization in order to fulfill the demand for cheap manufacturing, it is true that England is currently no better than France at finding a solution. After choosing the Gothic, which the painters of the Pre-Raphaelite school tried to revive, believing that they were being patriotic—just like the French enthusiasts of this style did around 1840—English taste transferred to eighteenth-century fashions and to forms of Chippendale furniture. Then, after the Paris Exposition of 1878, it yielded to the amiable influence of the Japanese and grew tired of being reconquered by Greek types and the Pompeian paintings that still decorate so many English houses. English taste continues to oscillate between the caprice of amateurs and the impotent ignorance of manufacturers, without a determined direction, without purpose, and without bias.

It was under these conditions that the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society was founded and its fourth exhibition was held. But, before judging its principal works from our French point of view, let us recall who the distinguished founders of this society are, what principles of art they invoke, and by what theories they wish to triumph.


The seventy-two personalities who make up the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society and the twenty-one members of the Steering Committee who inspired the movement, including William Morris (the president), Burne-Jones, Walter Crane, Lewis F. Day, Reginald Blomfield, W. R. Lethaby, et al., are not only talented artists but also intellectuals of high culture, eminently educated, with distinguished minds. They know perfectly well what they want. They are not unaware of the difficulties that must be overcome and have the merit of circumscribing the task they have assumed with absolute clarity and frankness.

What I wanted from them (and I visited most of them in London) was to hear, in their own words, confirmation of what I understood of their theories from the books they had published.

They pretend to nothing less than to endow England with a homogeneous style of the decorative arts, established on rational principles and formed from scratch, in order to make a clean sweep of what was merely imitation of the past. Would this goal be achievable if the artist-members of the association followed their own personal fantasies in the midst of the general disorder of ideas that characterize taste for a populace spoiled by the spectacle of incessant pastiches of old works, mercantilism, and the ephemeral caprices of fashion? The Society does not think so. On the contrary, the members are convinced that it is necessary to adopt a common starting point to which all can rally in order to give their combined efforts cohesion and efficiency. And with this conviction, they feel they can redouble their strength by considering what is happening in France. “You see,” they say, “what unfortunate results have been reached in your country for want of attaching yourselves to a doctrine, a precise program that all are strictly obligated to follow. Certainly! It is not talent that is wanting. There is an abundance of it: brilliant, graceful, and delicate. But these talents are applied, so to speak, to disorganization, lacking method, each one turned in on itself; they are isolated forces, having no link between them. The consequence is that interesting works of art are created here and there, but art receives no new impulse. It does not obey one of these irresistible currents, as it did in glorious epochs past, involving a whole generation of artists of one race; in a word, you have no style!”

And these theorists of aesthetics add:

Since it seemed to us indispensable to restore vigor to the decorative arts in England through discipline, without which we cannot hope for style, and to place ourselves under a flag, what period or type of art should we choose? Should it be antiquity? No, the archaeological attempts have given us sufficient measure of its influence. Should it be the Renaissance? We have tasted this fruit that leaves ashes in the mouth. Should it be the eighteenth century, when a kind of semioriginal art flourished on our soil? No, the base was too fragile. We agreed that the art of the Middle Ages was best suited to serve as a starting point for our enterprise. Not that we all share an exclusive admiration for the Middle Ages in the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, nor that we limit our ambitions to a revival of the antiquated forms of that period. No, of course not! But we do believe that to go back to the art of this time is to resume our traditions at their purest source and to inspire us with logical principles of construction and techniques that were not yet distorted. That’s why almost all of our works at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition have an accentuated Gothic air.

Such are, as briefly summarized as possible, the theories of Mr. W. Morris, Mr. Walter Crane, Mr. Day, etc. Each of them defends their views with exemplary zeal and talent, in books, public lectures, or artworks of every kind. Mr. W. Morris, above all, is very active in this pursuit at all times. For more than thirty years he has been at the breach. He had scarcely finished his studies when he and his fellow student, Mr. Burne-Jones, gathered around them a few artists with similar aspirations. By confirming their commitment, they founded a sort of commercial enterprise, a tapestry factory and decoration workshop, where, as in the thirteenth century, the management was in the hands of a “master craftsman,” giving the works a happy unity of inspiration. Wallpaper, woodwork, and stainedglass windows were conceived with a uniformly archaic feeling and executed for an expanding clientele of amateurs. They testify to the obstinate will of this philosopher-decorator who emerged from the Pre-Raphaelite school. I saw William Morris in his little house in Hammersmith, surrounded by his books and directing his craftsmen-engravers with fine taste and smiling good humor, just as the illustrious printers Aldus Manutius and Plantin had done in the past. He is indeed just as one would imagine after reading his books. I have here his principal work, in which he develops with abundant precision his seasoned advice on designs suitable for carpets, embroideries, and the various applications of decorative art. Such questions cannot be treated with greater authority, greater knowledge, or more certain judgment. Mr. Morris is a master theorist.

Mr. Lewis F. Day—an industrial designer, a book illustrator, and a professor, I believe, for some time at the school of South Kensington—is also one of the proponents of the doctrines represented by the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. He has published several books on these questions, the most recent being devoted to the study of the elements of nature in ornament.13 This is a subject he knows well, since in most of his numerous designs for fabrics and wallpapers he employs motifs that seek to preserve the impression of life and the natural grace of plants and flowers, seeing their flexible stems as an aspect of reality, unlike our French designers. When he says that “it is not enough to choose a motive arbitrarily and to arrange it symmetrically along fancy lines,” Mr. Day is undoubtedly right. One cannot but agree with him when he declares that a professional decorator “must know the structure and the mode of the plant’s growth, just as the painter must know the skeleton and the organization of the animal he wishes to reproduce.” But by assigning a very important place, justifiably, to the science of ornament, to the distribution of patterns, and to the interweaving of harmonious and balanced lines, does Mr. Day give sufficient attention to the sentiments of the decorator who must preserve freshness in his translation of nature? What does science matter if it engenders only coldness? Here we touch upon the fundamental point that seems to separate the theorists of the new English school of decorative art from their French colleagues.

Mr. Walter Crane is on the same path. He leaves aside the question that if one submits the representation of nature to excessively formal rules, one can, under the pretext of decorative science, fall into convention and mannerism. Instead, he presents a rare example of a supple, fertile talent that is applied with amazing ease to all genres: painting, goldsmithery, stained glass, book illustration, tapestry, wallpaper, etc. He is in the prime of life, having been born in Liverpool in 1845, and already enjoys a considerable reputation. He also writes books in which he airs his theories. I found some very curious pages in his volume The Claims of Decorative Art. Proposing that modern art is the victim of machines, he compares it to a new Andromeda, chained to the terrible rock of economic conditions. He maintains that salvation lies in the emancipation of industrial designers, who are currently slaves of the market for cheap manufactures. He says that neither the artist who produces a composition nor the craftsman who executes it is ever in contact with the person for whom the object is destined. How could they create anything with the qualities of a work of art? Of all the artists in our time, only painters have enjoyed the privilege of entering into a direct relationship with the buyer; painting has this advantage, even over architecture.

In France, a country where the finest artists are not those who write theories, Mr. Walter Crane would be called an intellectual. The son of a miniature painter, he began by studying engraving with W. Linton, became passionate about Raphael, then fell in love with the Japanese, whom he abandoned to return to the Renaissance and the Greeks after seeing the magnificent marbles of Lord Elgin at the British Museum. His talent, as we see, has received various influences. His fame came almost immediately after the publication of his picture books for children, of which The Baby’ s Opera (1877) and The First of May (1881) have acquired an extraordinary vogue. Anyone other than Mr. Walter Crane would have been satisfied with such a success, but he has broader ambitions. A decorator at heart, he cannot conceive that a true artist could be content with a single means of expression, and he endeavors to speak the language of all the crafts, as was shown at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition. He is armed for the struggle. As he said to me himself a short time ago in his home at Holland Street, a tranquil retreat bordered by tall leafy trees: “We make war on mercantilism, against those manufacturers who declare themselves ready to deliver all the styles under the sun to the public instantly!”

I shall not go any further in analyzing the character of the chief leaders of the movement that has manifested itself in England for the transformation of the decorative arts. I tried to understand their preferences and penetrate deep into their thoughts. Now let us see their works.


The Exhibition consisted of about five or six hundred works.14 There was no attempt to show only recent productions, for among that number there were compositions of masters such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who was already dead, and cartoons for stained-glass windows and tapestries by Mr. Burne-Jones and Mr. W. Morris, which were over twenty-five years old. But the Committee of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society had concentrated its efforts on combining compositions conceived within their program, the tendencies of which I indicated above, and which did not, on the whole, strike a discordant note. In this, the show was perfectly successful.

A whole room was devoted to drawings for book illustration. There one could appreciate the peculiar feeling that at present inspires so many English artists. Whether it be vignettes to adorn the text of modern novels, children’s stories, or even ancient authors who were more or less famous, the effect is always of a delicate archaism, which, one would say, borrowed vaguely from the miniatures of the fifteenth century. It is a calculated naiveté, imprinted with some mysticism, which, in most cases, does not agree with the subject, and which can render the work conventional and artificial. It is certainly fair to put the drawings of D. G. Rossetti on the Legend of the Sangreal, The Love of Dante, or Saint Cecilia (catalogue nos. 333–38) into this category. But these are, nevertheless, truly masterly works with a profound poetry, an appropriateness of interpretation, and a sincerity of emotion that is admirable. The composition executed to illustrate the poems of Tennyson, dated 1857, in which we see St. Cecilia seated before the organ, her eyes downcast, while a genius in the form of a young man places a kiss on her forehead, is a pure marvel. Another drawing shows us the saint on her knees. What nervous and ardent fervor is translated in the pretty movement of her whole body, which is suggested under the folds of her long garment! D. G. Rossetti is a first-rate artist. It is unfortunate that in France he is almost ignored. But he is an exceptional artist who belongs to the period of romanticism. To return to the contemporary English illustrators, their craving for archaism is tainted with a little mannerism. Take Mr. Lewis F. Day, for example, whose drawing is so correct, so learned, and who has composed floriated designs and book covers in a pleasant Renaissance style. But why, when illustrating the first page of the catalogue of the British section at the Chicago Exhibition, has he adopted a principle of decoration that one would think of being from the sixteenth century, with an intertwined pattern of roses and thistle leaves in three divisions? What does the sixteenth century have to do with the Chicago Exhibition? I must admit that I do not much like the most recent illustrations in color by Mr. Walter Crane, especially those in which we see the heroes of mythology engaged in their exploits. Hercules has the physique of a gentleman and carries his club with the familiar elegance of our sportsmen, who walk, as is fashionable, with a cane in their hand—but one weighing 60 kilos. There is no truth in the gestures, no nobility in the attitudes; it is a drawing made without a model. And, begging pardon of the author, if there is any spirit in the compositions, it escapes us. Other illustrators, such as Louis Davis, R. Hallward, Heywood Sumner, Henry Ryland, and Fairfax Murray, exhibited florets and ornate letters that in France would not be disavowed by the artists of our “Symbolist” school. One might think that artists who would normally be reading the Lives of the Saints are now interpreting fairy tales. I recall, not without pleasure, a composition of Mr. Hallward for a children’s story, Love One Another.15 Here we can recognize landscapes where there are only faded tones, pale greens, light-blue skies, orange-yellow grounds, and many young people who all have red hair—a ferocious red. Ah! Red hair, how they seem to love it in England! In all this art there is much preciousness and a certain grace that is sometimes subtle, but there is no vigor and masculine simplicity of observation that springs from the direct and healthy study of nature.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, St. Cecilia, wood engraving from the Moxon Tennyson, 1857.

In order to assess the true value of the movement that the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society seeks to impart to the decorative arts, it is most important to examine its architectural applications. Indeed, a draftsman may execute a likeable illustration or a sculptor model a graceful trinket, and while their results may not be without interest, their work cannot modify the general direction of art. This is precisely one of the grievances that English critics invoke, not without reason, against contemporary French art. “You have,” they say to us, “only a delicious art of whatnots.” Decoration that has a fixed destination in the home is of a very different significance: by the originality of its lines, it can bring about a radical change in the construction or in the external appearance of an object. It is from this that a style is constituted. It is more difficult to find a new type of furniture than to conceive of ingenious ornamentation in a piece of goldsmith’s work. But the day that a new type of furniture is discovered by an artist and is accepted by the public, one will immediately see all the decorative accessories change in unison: drapes, tapestries, woodwork, ceramics, glassware, jewelry and goldsmiths’ work, and even clothes will transform themselves in their general lines and coloring so as to remain in harmony with the principal motif.

The Arts and Crafts Exhibition was an expression of the efforts made by the members of this Society to find furnishings in keeping with the trends of renewal, whose original principles I have sought to indicate. One showed a buffet, another a table; this one a seat, that one an overmantel; each one plays his part. All are faithful to the program of simplicity, logic, and rationalism that seem to be the watchwords of the group. In this respect one can only approve, although the desire to be simple by going back to Gothic roots in order to better recapture good traditions of truth has led to an excess of sobriety, a dreary poverty in the materials employed, and a somewhat rudimentary dryness. For example, consider the piano executed from Mr. Cave’s drawings. It is of rough oak, its silhouette lacks in grace, and it is less ornate than the most modest wooden chests of peasants from the Middle Ages. Frankly, it is too monastic, and there is no modern drawing-room that can accommodate such a piece of furniture. It is true that the piano is there only to show us an innovation: its front feet extend to a height of about one meter above the keyboard and serve as candleholders for illuminating both the pianist and the musical score on the stand. The idea may be good, but the realization is deplorable. Mr. Ch. Spooner’s writing cabinet, of which some details are carefully studied, is equally unpleasant. Similarly, Mr. Voysey’s “lady’s work cabinet” is very heavy in form, quite massive, and coarse. Much better is the work (an escritoire) of Mr. Mervyn Macartney; its legs and feet are elegant. Two men are distinguished among all the others for the qualities of their furniture: two architects, I believe, named Reginald Blomfield and H. Lethaby. From the first, we saw a mahogany dining room buffet with flower inlays of the most distinguished taste. He also exhibited a rosewood seat with originally arranged arms and, above all, a “drawings cabinet,” the merit of which rests in the delicacy of the profiles, the skilful encrustation of light walnut and ebony ornaments, and the execution of the drawers. These drawers are lined internally with a pink wood, silky and velvety like the skin of a fruit, to make clear the value of the engravings that will be enclosed within! The works of Mr. Lethaby do not have this character of savory perfection and wise restraint to the same degree. But there is a desire for originality and the talent of a colorist. I do not care for his wooden chest adorned with baroque sheep. On the other hand, his “nursery door” is an amusing fantasy, painted entirely in dark green within a framework of blacks, decorated with landscapes in monochrome tones whose perspective disappears as it becomes confused with the dyed texture of the wood. We know what role the fireplace overmantel plays in English houses: it is the most important piece of furniture, with superimposed shelves, mirrors, and small niches reserved for “objets d’art.” Mr. Lethaby has exhibited one of them that is charming and of a somewhat feverish elegance characterized by its oppositions of curved lines and very frail consoles. The marble sheets, alternately white and gray, which decorate the flat parts at the top, contribute to this effect.

Walter Cave, piano in oak, made by Bechstein, ca. 1891. Courtesy of H. Blairman & Sons, London.


Walter Crane, Hercules and the Nymphs, illustration for “The Three Golden Apples”, from Nathaniel Hawthorne, A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1893).

There is a widespread opinion in France that the English have a marked preference for colors in sharp and garish tones. If this were true in the past, it must be said that such taste has long disappeared. On the contrary, what the English seek, and what they prefer in tapestries and carpets for their apartments, are broken shading and muted colors that are a little bland: blues mixed with green and gray, faded yellows, dull lilacs, and whites rubbed with gray and rose. To a Frenchman’s eyes, even one familiar with the silvery grays and the dissolved light that our modern impressionists make prominent in our exhibitions, these attenuated colors have something sad and sickly about them. These are the ones that abound in the wall hangings of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society. The magnificent highly finished tapestries from Mr. William Morris’s workshops, the cartoons of which have been furnished by Mr. Burne-Jones, are worthy of admiration. One abandons oneself entirely to their imposing charm whenever one emerges from the first surprise caused by the strange novelty of the coloring within an overall deep tonality, in which the clear notes of the flowers burst forth, standing out vividly against the dark background. The work representing Sir Galahad and the Holy Graal is a composition of great allure. The drawing is in perfect harmony with the execution, and we recognize the science of technique Mr. Morris brings to such a work. We shall return to Mr. Burne-Jones and his penetrating poetry when speaking of the stained-glass windows. Among the designs for fabrics, we should mention first of all those of Mr. Day, who puts his mark on everything he touches. He creates a cleverly balanced arrangement of patterns of foliage and flowers: a conventional interpretation of reality with personal feeling nevertheless. It is too archaic in my opinion, but very firmly inscribed. I will also mention again various interesting embroideries, one of which, The Vision of Dante, is an over-door made from a drawing by Mr. Walter Crane. On the left, one sees Dante with a long red cloak, in front of which, in the midst of dark foliage, the terrible animals pass: a tiger in golden-yellow silk spotted with black, a wild lion, a black fox showing its fangs, and so on. Mr. Burne-Jones has also given a singular composition for translation into embroidery, employing violent tones that recall certain works of our compatriot Mr. Gustave Moreau. One sees a genius of colossal scale dominating a whole world of female characters, its two large red wings spread out over the blue background of a seascape. The embroidery drawing by Mr. Heywood Sumner (no. 145), A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is certainly bizarre, even unacceptable, but the eye is captivated nevertheless by the singularity of the coloring and the somewhat perverse charm of the dancers, whose robes illuminate the night with phosphorescent gleams. One can also praise the curious work of the pupils from the Royal School of Needlework, such as a cream-colored satin portiere (no. 162) copied from an ancient work attributed to Mary Stuart, in which clusters of flowers and fruit, strawberries and grapes, are embroidered in the coils of an arabesque with a very vivid intelligence of effect. Finally, I would be remiss if I overlooked the dessert napkins, embroidered after designs by Mr. Walter Crane (nos. 158–59), the portiere (166) by Mr. Aymer Vallance, and the satin piano back (198) by Mr. Reginald Hallward, embroidered with flowers and fruit.

Lewis F. Day, block-printed cotton produced by Turnbull and Stockdale, 1888. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

English artists generally have a high opinion of their achievements in stained glass. They even think quite sincerely that nobody can dispute their superiority in this field. There is no doubt that they exhibit remarkable qualities and an excellent understanding of ornament and the use of glass, although their coloring is generally a little too monotonous and cold. I have not been able to judge whether further progress has been made in this field in recent times, for there was no executed work, only a large number of important cartoons for stained-glass windows. All the brilliant and warm talent of Dante Gabriel Rossetti is to be found in his series of six drawings for stained glass composed in 1852, which tell the story of Saint George. The one in which we see Saint George killing the monster, whose hideous tail is already coiled round the saint’s body, is superb in energy, power, and color. But the triumphant figure in this section of the exhibition is undoubtedly Mr. Burne-Jones, who has no less than seven or eight vast compositions, such as the Martyrdom of St. Stephen, the Burning Bush, the angels Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael, Saint Paul in Athens, and Christ Blessing the Little Children. In all of these, the great artist, adept at expressing the most subtle rarities of his poetic dreams and the exquisite seduction of his profoundly original modeling, knows how to revive the interest of the most mundane religious types. After having once seen the cartoons of his three angels, Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael, for example, is it possible to forget these striking figures, who carry within them the finest characteristics of English art? The most strangely refined and most charming faculty of the genius of Mr. Burne-Jones imbues all his creations with an intense, sharp, almost painful grace, so that his images are embedded in the depths of the soul. The angel Gabriel is adorable: his long brown coat, which he raises with a feminine gesture, is accompanied by a violet-faced mantle that leaves uncovered the dark-red sleeves of his tunic. Under his pretty blue helmet, adorned on the side with a red shell, pass a few locks of his fair hair, cut short. If we did not see the two large wings, whose green tones are lost in the thick green of the background landscape, we might believe, in contemplating this graceful face with such tender eyes, that we are in the presence not of a symbolic figure of Paradise, but of an earthly daughter of Albion, a mystical flower of virtue and beauty. And it is indeed this combination of precision and poetry, of human reality in the most vaporous conceptions, which remains one of the salient features of English art. Alongside the works of Mr. Burne-Jones, the other cartoons for stained-glass windows lose their interest. Yet there are many that have merit. Such are those of Mr. Henry Holliday in The Creation for the Church of St. Savior; those of Mr. Walter Crane, such as Christ Baptizing St. Peter and Christ and the Widow; those of Mr. Selwyn Image, who composed stained-glass windows to excellent effect for private dwellings; and those of Mr. Madox Brown, Mr. Whall, etc.

Examining in detail all the other series of objects exhibited by the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society might seem tedious to the reader. I will therefore abridge and confine myself to indicating briefly the real pleasure I took in seeing the drawings for wallpaper by Mr. Lewis F. Day (nos. 233–34); by Mr. Sidney Haward (no. 420), who has been very skilfully inspired by the Japanese; and by Mr. Heywood Sumner (no. 235), who took the vineyard as the theme of a curiously arranged decoration. Additionally, I enjoyed a few glass works, various jewels, and a number of pieces of wrought iron, as well as entrance locks, door bolts, etc. (no. 419) of the utmost simplicity but of very pure taste, which were drawn by M. A. S. Dixon and executed by the Birmingham Guild of Handicraft at very modest prices. This is the record of the works I thought worthy of attention.



  1. 1. The Select Committee on Arts and Manufactures, Report, together with the Minutes of Evidenceand Appendix, 1835, quoted in Mervyn Romans, “An Analysis of the Political Complexion of the 1835/6 Select Committee on Arts and Manufactures,” International Journal of Art & Design Education 16, no. 2 (2007): 217.
  2. 2. On the policies and program of design reform in early Victorian Britain, see Elizabeth Bonython and Anthony Burton, The Great Exhibitor: The Life and Work of Henry Cole (London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 2003); and Julius Bryant, ed., Art and Design for All: The Victoria & Albert Museum (London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 2012). Many of the proposals on design and the decorative arts generated from within the circle of Henry Cole were disseminated through the Journal of Design and Manufactures, published in six volumes between 1849 and 1852 by Chapman and Hall, London.
  3. 3. In 1852, Charles Ernest Clerget, an industrial designer, and Jean Baptiste Jules Klagmann, an ornamental sculptor, “each sent treatises to Napoleon III advocating the creation of an industrial arts museum, a central school of industrial arts, and a yearly Salon for the display of commercial and industrial designs.” Debora Silverman, Art Nouveau in Fin-de-Siècle France: Politics, Psychology, and Style (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 109; M. le cte. de Laborde, De l’Union des arts et de l’industrie, rapport fait au nom de la commission française de l’exposition universelle de Londres sur les beaux-arts et sur les industries qui se rattachent aux beaux-arts, 2 vols. (Paris: Imprimerie impériale, 1856).
  4. 4. This issue became more pressing after 1860 when Britain and France entered into a free trade agreement. See Gabrielle Cadier, “Les conséquences du traité de 1860 sur le commerce franco-britannique,” Histoire, économie et société 7, no. 3 (1988): 355–80.
  5. 5. Marius Vachon, Nos industries d’art en péril: Un musée municipale d’études d’art industriel(Paris: L. Baschet, 1882).
  6. 6. Marius Vachon, La crise industrielle et artistique en France et en Europe (Paris: Librairie illustrée, 1886). Starting in 1881, Vachon was commissioned by the under-secretary of state for fine arts to undertake missions in France and abroad to investigate the state of the decorative arts in various European countries. Vachon’s findings were published in a series of government reports between 1885 and 1898, the first of which was Rapports à M. Edmond Turquet, sous-secrétaire d’État, sur les musées et les écoles d’art industriel et sur la situation des industries artistiques en Allemagne, Autriche-Hongrie, Italie et Russie (Paris: A. Quantin, 1885). In general, Vachon recommended the decentralization of museums and education and encouraged the creation of regional museums and training establishments to restore traditional craft skills. The model for these proposals was the Musée d’art et d’industrie in Saint-Étienne, of which Vachon became director in 1889. For a more detailed list of Vachon’s publications, see the INHA site:
  7. 7. On the Union centrale, see Rossella Froissart, “Socialization of the Beautiful and Valorization of the Useful: The Decorative Arts in France, from the Utopias of 1848 to Art Nouveau,” West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture 21, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2014): 69–101.
  8. 8. The most sophisticated expression of this debate in UCAD was that of Pedro Rioux de Maillou, “Les arts décoratifs et les machines,” Revue des arts décoratifs 15 (February–April 1895): 225–31.
  9. 9. Résumé de rapports de missions sur les institutions d’enseignement industriel et artistique à l’étranger, adressé aux membres du congrès organisé par l’Union centrale des arts décoratifs: Europe—MM. Saglio et Marius Vachon; États-Unis—M. Victor Champier (Paris: May et Motteroz, 1894).
  10. 10. The “Liste générale des conférences sur les sciences et les arts appliqués, à l’Exposition universelle de Chicago” includes a lecture by Victor Champier on February 25, 1894, on “Les industries d’art et les écoles professionnelles aux États-Unis,” published in Annales du Conservatoire des arts et métiers, 2nd ser. (Paris: Gauthier-Villars et fils, 1893), 5:355.
  11. 11. This is presumably the article “French Decorative Art in London,” The Art Journal 56 (1894): 5–6.
  12. 12. This was the fourth exhibition of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, held at the New Gallery, 121 Regent Street, from October 2nd through December 2nd, 1893.
  13. 13. Nature in Ornament (London: B. T. Batsford, 1892).
  14. 14. There were 516 works listed in the catalogue, although some numbers consisted of several items. Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society: Catalogue of the Fourth Exhibition, New Gallery, 121 Regent St. (London, 1893).
  15. 15. No. 362, as by “Mrs. Hallward,” in Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society: Catalogue (London, 1893).

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