Tanya Harrod

Modernists & Marionettes

William Simmonds: The Silent Heart of the Arts and Crafts Movement

By

Unicorn 284pp £20 order from our bookshop

In 1973 Lionel Lambourne, historian of the aesthetic movement, described the sculptor, woodcarver, puppet maker and puppet master William Simmonds as ‘the calm still centre’ of the Arts and Crafts movement. But despite a major joint exhibition at Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum in 1980, Simmonds and his wife, Eve, have remained unknown outside a small circle of admirers. One problem, if lack of recognition can be counted as a problem, relates to the time in which he lived – he was born in 1876 and died in 1968. He was caught between two centuries, living through cataclysmic artistic changes. He started out studying painting under Walter Crane at the Royal College of Art, then spent five years at the Royal Academy Schools. Simmonds emerged as a creator of literary, historical and fairyland illustrations, technically well trained but, aside from some fine landscapes, offering weak Pre-Raphaelitism at two or three removes. Between 1904 and 1911 he worked with the American artist Edwin Austin Abbey on huge decorative panels intended for the Pennsylvania State Capitol, receiving little acknowledgement. At that point he hardly seemed part of the Arts and Crafts movement, let alone what passed for modernism in England.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,
    • 'We read from left to right and from start to finish. Or do we?' Stuart Hannabus considers the merits of reading i… ,
    • Domestic scandal, sexual abuse and serial killers are on the menu in April's crime round-up. revie… ,
    • What did Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, James Boswell and Edmund Burke all have in common? Clare Bucknell reveal… ,