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Exhibition highlights early design innovation

By Wang Linyan | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-05-26 07:36

A sample of wallpaper featuring the Acanthus pattern, designed by Morris and made around 1875, block-printed in distempered colors on paper. CHINA DAILY

Influence on China

While Donnelly mentions that Asian ceramics were also a source of inspiration for the artists at the time, Chen says that, when Morris' "contagious" ideas and work entered China through Japan in the early 20th century, Morris became one of the most well-known British cultural figures during that time.

"Chen Zhifo, a modern art educator, painter and designer, was so deeply inspired by Morris, as well as the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain, that he called for merging arts and crafts with industry and manufacturers to provide products that meet the needs of people's daily lives," Chen Li cites as an example.

Acclaimed Chinese artists and designers including Pan Xunqin, Lei Guiyuan and Zhang Guangyu were also inspired to design many classic works for commercial purposes, and publish relevant books, "laying the foundation for the development of modern architecture, furniture, interior design, graphic design and commercial art", says Chen Li.

The Arts and Crafts movement flourished at a time of great social and economic upheaval in Britain, when many people moved from the country into cities to find work, and their lives changed with industrialization. There's the feeling that people were living far from nature, and they were being torn from their roots; that's partly where this love of nature comes from, Donnelly says.

"So, if we think about that today, some of the things which people wanted to try and achieve during the movement are still things that we think about now," observes Donnelly.

"Some of the key elements of Arts and Crafts were fulfillment of life through meaningful work, an appreciation of beauty and a reverence for nature and the environment. Those things are just as important to craft workers, manufacturers and consumers today.

"By looking at how artists, designers and makers tackled those issues during the period when the Arts and Crafts movement flourished, it can give us some ideas and maybe some inspiration for today."

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