The English "Arts and Crafts
"Arts and Crafts Movement" was an artistic design movement that
flourished in the English speaking countries between 1880 and 1910. Its
philosophical foundations were based on the writings of
(1819-1900). and the
The most outspoken advocate of the Movement was the English artist and
The Arts and Crafts style influenced architecture, domestic design and
the decorative arts. Its methodology advocated the use of simple forms
and a return to an almost Medieval style of decoration. Philosophically,
the Movement advocated the realization of spiritual truth from the use
of traditional craftsmanship and art. It basically arose as a reaction
against the crass materialism of the Victorian era and the "soulless"
machine-driven, mass production techniques of the Industrial Revolution.
This artistic style achieved maximum influence during the Edwardian Age
and then rapidly waned as the result of World War I and the rise of
Colman Smith was a staunch advocate of both the philosophy and artistic
techniques utilized by the Arts and Crafts Movement. The education she
received at the Pratt Institute of Art in Brooklyn, New York, from
1893-1897, only served to reinforce this belief system. Her most
influential teacher at Pratt
Dow had been inspired
by the British Arts & Crafts movement as championed by William Morris;
he also greatly appreciated the aesthetics of Japanese art as well. The
Arts and Crafts Movement stressed the superior quality of hand-made as
opposed to machine-made objects. Dow championed the Arts & Crafts
aesthetic and never considered crafts inferior to fine arts. He taught
his students to appreciate the elegance of design that was based on
nature but never replicated it, placing precedence on no one particular
technique over any other, as long as the final result was beautiful.
This approach to art perfectly suited the strong-minded "Pixie" Smith.
publication in the United States which advocated the Arts and Crafts
style was a monthly periodical called The Craftsman. This
magazine was published by a man named
(1858-1942). Stickley had started the publication in
October 1901 and used it to promote his architectural ideas, which were
consistent with the Arts and Crafts style. The magazine was published
for almost 16 years, until December 1916. The July 1908 issue (see
photo of the cover sheet on the right) contained an article by Pamela
Colman Smith entitled "Should the Art Student Think?" I consider this
article so important to understanding Pamela's approach to art that I
quote the article in its entirety as follows:
Should the Art Student Think?
By Pamela Colman Smith
All you students who are just beginning your work
in an Art School, stop - think! First make sure in your own mind what end you wish
to work for. Do you know? Perhaps you have not decided. You will leave all that
to time when you have learned to draw and leave the school - a crippled tool - ready
to begin your serious work and have a studio and all the rest of it. Do not wait
till then! Put in a corner of your mind an idea - such as, "I wish to paint
portraits." Just keep that idea in the corner, and do not forget that it is
there. Call it up sometimes and review your work in front of it. Thus, am I
working at the faces of all the people I see - trying to find out their
character, imagining how I should paint them if I were to do so? Am I trying to
show more of their character than appears on the surface? Can I see it? No. But
how shall I find it? Look for it.
When you see a portrait of an historical person, note the dress, the type of
face; see if you can trace the character in the face; note the pose, for often
pose will date a picture as correctly as the hair or clothes. Remember the date,
if the picture is dated; if not, place it in your mind as a second half of the
fourteenth century, or the first half of the eighteenth, and so on. If you are
not sure of the period, make a pencil sketch and take it with you to some
reference library. Once a week make it a point of looking up all the clothes you
have seen (or wish to draw in some composition, perhaps). Some day when you may
have a novel to illustrate and a character to portray, you will remember, "Oh,
yes, a dress of the kind worn by so and so in the portrait by so and so - that
type - or - no! Somewhat more lively."
Go and see all the plays you can. For the stage is a great school or should
be to the illustrator, as well as to others. First watch the simple forms of joy,
fear, of sorrow; look at the position taken by the whole body, then the face - but
that can come afterward.
As an exercise draw a composition of fear or sadness, or great sorrow, quite
simply, do not bother about details now, but in a few lines tell your story.
Then show it to any one of your friends, or family, or fellow students, and ask
them if they can tell you what it is you meant to portray. You will soon get to
know how to make it tell its tale. After you have found how to tell a simple
story, put in more details, the face, and indicate the dress. Next time you go
to the play look at the clothes, hat, cloak, armor, belt, sword, dagger, rings,
boots, jewels. Watch how the cloak swings when the person walks, how the hands
are used. See if you can judge if the clothes are correct, or if they are worn
correctly; for they are often ruined by the way they are put on. An actor should
be able to show the period and manner of the time in the way he puts on his
clothes, as well as the way he
uses his hands, head, legs.
This may be beside the mark, think you! "Of what use is the stage to me? I am to
be an illustrator of books! The stage is false, exaggerated, unreal," you say.
So are a great many pictures in books, and the books, too, for that matter. The
stage has taught me almost all I know of clothes, of action and of pictorial
Learn from everything, see everything, and above all feel everything! And make
other people when they look at your drawing feel it too!
Make your training at your art school your a b c. You must learn to hold a
brush, to mix paint, to draw in perspective, and study anatomy.
Keep an open mind to all things. Hear all the music you can, good music, for
sound and form are more closely connected than we know.
Think good thoughts of beautiful things, colors, sounds, places, not mean
thoughts. When you see a lot of dirty people in a crowd, do not remember only
the dirt, but the great spirit that is in them all, and the power that they
For through ugliness is beauty sometimes found. Lately I have seen a play, ugly,
passionate, realistic, brutal. All through that play I felt that ugly things may
be true to nature, but surely it is through evil, that we realize good. The
far-off scent of morning air, the blue mountains, the sunshine, the flowers, of
a country I once lived in, seemed to rise before me-and there on the stage was a
woman sitting on a chair, her body stiff, her eyes rolling, a wonderfully
realistic picture of a fit.
I believe that in the so-called "composition class" the future of many a student
lies. (Professor Arthur Dow, of Columbia University, has proved this, and
through his influence I believe a good many schools have begun to teach
But let the student begin young, and with all the necessary aids for the
broadening of his mind. Composition first, and all the other rules and
rudiments, in order as they come. As much literature, music, drama as possible
(all to be thought of in relation to that idea so safely tucked away in the
corner of the student's mind), to be
worked at from the vantage point of knowing what they are to aid.
I wish here to say how grateful I am to the writer of an article in an American
magazine (Putman's Monthly for July, 1907). "An Appreciation and a Protest." An
appreciation of Albert Sterner, and a protest against the "ultra-sweetness and
oppressive propriety admired alike by the 'publisher and the public," and
"individuality discreetly suppressed.'
0! the prudishness and pompous falseness of a great mass of intelligent people!
I do not hold that "the incessant roar of high-power presses" is alone to blame
for the stifling of life, but for a lack of inspiration. For it is a land of
power, a land of unkempt uproar-full of life, force, energy.
Lift up your ideals, you weaklings, and force a way out of that thunderous
clamor of the steam press, the hurrying herd of blind humanity, noise, dust,
strife, seething toil - there is power! The imprisoned Titans underneath the
soil, grinding, writhing-take your strength from them, throw aside your petty
drawing room point of view.
I do not want to see riotous, clumsy ugliness suddenly spring up, but a fine
noble power shining through your work. The illustrations that I see in the
magazines by the younger people are all dignified and well, carefully and
conscientiously drawn, --but their appalling clumsiness is quite beyond
me,--their lack of charm and grace.
I do not mean by charm, prettiness, but an appreciation of beauty. Ugliness is
beauty, but with a difference, a nobleness that speaks through all the hard
crust of convention.
I have heard it said that half the world has nothing to say. Perhaps the other
half has, but it is afraid to speak. Banish fear, brace your courage, place your
ideal high up with the sun, away from the dirt and squalor and ugliness around
you and let that power that makes "the roar of the high-power presses" enter
into your work - energy - courage - life - love. Use your wits, use your eyes. Perhaps
you use your physical eyes too much and only see the mask. Find eyes within,
look for the door into the unknown country.
"High over cap" on a fairy horse ride on your Quest for what we are all
seeking - Beauty. Beauty of thought first, beauty of feeling, beauty of form,
beauty of color, beauty of sound, appreciation, joy, and the power of showing it
Elizabeth Cumming, and Wendy Kaplan, Arts & Crafts
2) Pamela Colman Smith, "Should the Art Student Think?," The Craftsman,
July 1908, pages 417-419.
3) Stuart R. Kaplan,
The Artwork and Times of Pamela Colman Smith (2009), page 84.