A complex fate: Gustav Stickley and the Craftsman Movement
"It's a complex fate, being an American." - Henry James A Complex Fate offers the first full-length look at Gustav Stickley, who rose from unknown cabinetmaker to the most vocal spokesman in America for the early twentieth-century aesthetic revolution that became known as the Craftsman Movement. In the face of the Modern Age, Stickley espoused the values of the medieval craftsman, influencing the design of furniture, pottery, metalwork, jewelry, bookbinding, leatherwork, and architecture. Author Barry Sanders chronicles the progress of Stickley's wide-ranging career, from his rise to fame and wealth to his ultimate financial ruin. Rare photographs and renderings of Stickley's designs enhance this compelling portrait of the man and his work. It was a time of enormous upheaval in America. Sweeping and convulsive changes spilled into the new century in every conceivable shape: electric lights, overhead railways, airplanes, automobiles, the Ashcan school of painting, jazz, and Henry James. Yet, in the middle of this time of intense innovation, a movement dedicated to simple living began to take shape. It became known as the Craftsman Movement, and an unknown cabinetmaker, Gustav Stickley, became its most vocal spokesman, and in many ways, its embodiment. A Complex Fate chronicles Stickley's life and career-a career marked by the same contradictions that characterized America's transition from a largely rural society to a modern, technological one. He regarded himself as a modern, yet espoused a philosophy that celebrated simplicity, community, and skilled manual work. His furniture itself, at first glance simple, stark, and hand-built, was nevertheless mass-produced and regarded as thoroughly modern by a public eager to buy it. In this, the first full-length profile of Stickley, we follow his rise to staggering wealth, wide popularity, and enormous influence on the design of furniture, pottery, metalwork, jewelry, book-binding, leatherwork, and architecture. We see the power of his charisma and uncommon ego, his plans for rural crafts schools, and his messianic drive to spread the message of artisanship, community, and honest, unalienated labor. We watch, too, as his ambitions and contradictions finally become overwhelming, leaving him a bankrupt and broken man. A Complex Fate is the robust portrait of a man whose talent, nerve, and savvy have left a lasting imprint on design in America, and whose life offers us a window on the roiling tumult of a society on the brink of a new age.
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