In 2005, London’s fabulous Victoria and Albert Museum held a wonderful exhibition about the Arts and Crafts Movement. Oh, how sublime it was to waft, Mrs Dalloway-style, through room after room of the most gorgeous jewellery, furniture, textiles and all sorts of other emphemera – why not take a wander through this beautiful online gallery to get your own idea of what it must have been like…
And to accompany us on this magical journey? A specially commissioned album of music by British composers inspired by traditional folk songs and the countryside – precisely in keeping with the values of the arts and crafts ideals, which were the promotion of traditional craftmanship using simple forms, with the application of medieval, romantic or folk styles of decoration. All performed beautifully by the English String Orchestra.
What pleasure such simple music can bring. So delicate, fleeting – like one’s half-dreams when dozing in the late-summer sun. Gossamer lilts need no effort in the listening, diaphenous wafts on the air mix with the pollen in the lazy breeze.
Here is one example – Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Greensleeves
And one other – Butterworth’s The Banks of Green Willow
Other tracks are more robust – not everything about the countryside and nature is idyllic of course: there is toil, poverty and loss. But there is honest reward in the end. This piece, Holst’s Somerset Rhapsody perhaps captures the whole gamut.
It would not be right for me to leave a post about the Arts and Crafts Movement without giving specific reference to William Morris, the English textile designer (among other things), and the Movement’s leader. I’ll finish with but one of his many iconic designs, The Strawberry Thief – it seems to me that time is easily stolen away when one is immersed in the beauty of these visual and aural treasures.