'Boston Made' Exhibition at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Boston Made - Arts & Crafts necklace by Frank Gardner Hale A gold, green garnet, sapphire and opal necklace by Frank Gardner Hale, displayed in "Boston Made: Arts and Crafts Jewelry and Metalwork" at the Museum of Fine Arts. Photo courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

 

Boston Made: Arts and Crafts Jewelry and Metalwork remains on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) through March 29, 2020. The MFA proudly honors the artists who reignited artisanry in Boston during the early decades of the 20th century.

While The Arts & Crafts movement began in England, the philosophies and practices spread across the Atlantic. Boston, with the support of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, became a hub for both men and women to grow into skilled artists in the style.

 

Boston Made

As the museum's first ever exhibition solely dedicated to the Arts & Crafts movement, Boston Made showcases over 70 objects. These objects, which include jewelry, design drawings, decorative accessories, and tableware, tell the story of Boston's contribution to the Arts & Crafts movement.

As a strong proponent for the arts since its inception in 1907, the MFA continues to highlight prominent Boston artists. The idea for this exhibition began with the recent acquisition of Frank Gardner Hale's design drawings.

Acquired in 2014, the Boston artist's drawings complement nicely his jewelry already owned by the museum. In addition, it renewed attention to multiple other Arts & Crafts artists whose pieces the museum had collected over the years.

Specifically, in 1913, the MFA obtained a gold and pearl brooch, as well as a gold, emerald, and pearl ring. Made by Josephine Hartwell Shaw, these jewels established her as the first contemporary female maker represented in the museum.

Along with Shaw and Hale, the exhibit highlights the works of 11 other jewelers and metalsmiths in the Arts & Crafts period. The exhibition invites visitors to understand more deeply the philosophical and design principles of the movement.

 

The Arts & Crafts Movement

The movement began in England in the late 1880s, simultaneous to the Art Nouveau movement. Influenced by the writings and social criticism of John Ruskin, William Morris inspired a moral aesthetic. He founded it on the moral principles of appreciation of beauty, the importance of artistic endeavor, and the dignity of physical labor.

Promoted primarily through the operation of schools of design and guilds for craftsmen, the Arts & Crafts movement promoted equal-access for men and women. Followers of this movement rejected mechanized assembly and design. Instead, they drew inspiration from the quieter guild lifestyles of the preindustrial ages.

In the arts, emphasis centered on unified design principles, meticulous craftsmanship, and material choices based on beauty rather than raw value. Most importantly, artisans were encouraged to find deep pleasure and joy in their work.

 

The Boston Look

The cultural and design principles of this movement fit perfectly with the progressive intellectual community already established in Boston in the early 20th century. For 30 years, the Boston arts community embraced a return to pre-industrial ideals. Adding to these a commitment to aesthetic design, communal artistry, as well as artistic equality among men and women.

In particular, Boston emerged as an influential leader for the movement in the U.S. Specifically, Boston impacted the jewelry and metalworking communities. Eventually, a unique aesthetic emerged.

Called The Boston Look, this aesthetic remained true to the principles of the movement. At the same time, it expressed the unique flair of Boston's artists. The Boston Look features bold color combinations through the use of precious and semi-precious gemstones and enamels. It also features a glitzy glamour which draws upon historical styles and includes an abundance of foliate motifs.

We invite you to immerse yourself in The Boston Look, the stories of the incredible artistic pioneers of the US's Arts & Crafts Movement, and the exemplary craftsmanship of some of Boston's finest jewelry and metal artists.

Boston Made remains on view at the MFA through March 29. The museum is open 7 days a week. To plan your trip, please visit the museum's website.