As the Victorian era waned at the end of the 19th century, a new decorative arts aesthetic, the Arts and Crafts Movement, emerged in England and America. Soon after our State's founding in 1876 (the same year of our country's 100th birthday and the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition), the Movement came to the United States.and to Colorado.
By 1898 in Denver, a group of enlightened artists, craftsmen and women had started the Denver Artists' Club, whose members included artist Henry Read and socialite Elizabeth Spaulding. Five years after this group was founded, they added another branch called the Art Crafts Department.
Writing in the Denver Post, Read said, "due to the rise in America of the philosophies of Ruskin, William Morris, Charles Wagner and Leo Tolstoy, and that art after all is Man's expression of joy in his work. They should honor this expression with annual exhibitions of this art craftsmanship."
This was perhaps the real beginning of the movement in Colorado. Ellen D'Arcy Gaw, a girl raised in Leadville, had made a name for herself as a designer and craftswoman in her studies at the Art Institute School. She would soon begin a partnership with Dirk Van Erp in San Francisco, producing some of the best copper work of the early 20th century.
Also just after 1900, a famous couple - Artus and Ann Van Briggle - would realize their dream of an art pottery producing their designs in local clays with Artus' famous matte glazes in Colorado Springs, where the company is still in operation today. Many art exhibitions from Pueblo to Fort Collins in the early 1900s showed the work of these talented and relatively undiscovered, craftsmen and women.
Learn more about the roots of the Arts and Crafts movement.