More than a style, a philosophy
Bold color combinations of gemstones and enamels, foliate motifs, and designs inspired by historical styles, often with a certain glitziness—that is what defined the “Boston look” of Arts and Crafts jewelry and metalwork. Beginning as a reaction against the dehumanizing effects of industrialization, the international Arts and Crafts movement spurred a renaissance of handcraftsmanship in Boston at the turn of the 20th century. As part of this movement, the city quickly emerged as one of the most active and influential artistic jewelry-making and metalworking communities in the nation.
“Boston Made: Arts and Crafts Jewelry and Metalwork” presents the story of this community over a 30-year period, from its inception at the beginning of the 20th century to the stock market crash of 1929 that signaled its decline. “Boston Made” is the first exhibition to focus exclusively on the Arts and Crafts metalsmiths in Boston and highlights the contributions of newly empowered women artists like Josephine Hartwell Shaw and Elizabeth Copeland, among others. While adhering to the ideas and ideals of the international Arts and Crafts movement, Boston artists developed a signature aesthetic that set their work apart from the broader movement. “Boston Made” brings together more than 75 works—including jewelry, tableware, decorative accessories, and design drawings—that illuminate the passions and philosophies of this interwoven community of jewelry-makers and metalsmiths. Among the notable works on view are a scroll brooch (about 1920) by Frank Gardner Hale, pictured above, studded with gemstones and embellished with gold scrolls; a jeweled casket (about 1929) by Edward Everett Oakes; and a necklace (1910–18) by Josephine Hartwell Shaw.
Arts and Crafts was a philosophy as much as an artistic movement, looking to the pre-industrial past for design and lifestyle guidance. Design was more important than opulence, and materials were selected for their aesthetic properties, rather than for their intrinsic value. These ideas melded well with Boston’s progressive intellectual community of the early 20th century. How does Arts and Crafts resonate with contemporary movements advocating a return to simplicity and handcraftsmanship?
The exhibition is accompanied by a complementary installation in the Lorraine and Alan Bressler Gallery, 222, and an illustrated book from MFA Publications (November 2018).