News & Insights

The Rise of Arts and Crafts at Auction

31st July 2018. By Diane Sinnott

One of the most notable themes that has come out of recent Spring Fine Art Sales at Tennants is the strength of Arts and Crafts lots, a reflection of an upwards trend in the market as a whole.


The Arts and Crafts movement emerged at the end of the 19th century, led by the likes of John Ruskin and William Morris. A reaction to the negative effects the rise of industrialisation had had on craftsmanship, the movement championed the value of traditional skills, the natural beauty of materials and the joy of skilled work alongside wider social reform.

Today, these principles are being re-invigorated in our ever more technological society, exemplified by the fashion for artisanal products, most notably food, hand crafted from local ingredients by skilled individuals. The desire for simple, honest products made from natural materials and unique hand crafted pieces is also on the rise in the world of interior design, a trend that is fuelling the popularity of Arts and Crafts at auction. In recent years the Arts and Crafts market at auction has been dominated by a few specialist collectors attracted to the ‘high end’ pieces by top makers such as William de Morgan, the Martin Brothers and Baillie Scott. Now, we are seeing a much wider consumer interest drawn to these ‘modern antiques’ that blend into both traditional and modern interiors with their clean and uncluttered designs.

Indeed, the Arts and Crafts movement advocated a holistic view of design, turning the home into a work of art in its entirety - from the architecture to the soft furnishings and the utilitarian fittings such as door latches. Whilst people today may only incorporate a few pieces into their homes, a few great Arts and Crafts houses and interiors have been preserved, such as Blackwell in the Lake District, and are well worth a visit to get a real sense of the ethos of the movement.

For collectors both old and new there is a great variety of Art and Crafts pieces to be found at auction. The 2018 Fine Art Sales have seen high prices for lots from the top end of the market, such as a Guild of Handicraft Silver and Enamel Box (sold for £5,000), a pair of laboratory stools attributed to Charles Rennie Mackintosh (sold for £3,000) and a William de Morgan Charger (sold for £2,400). The lot that drew the most attention, however, was a quantity of curtains and furnishing materials that were designed by William Morris himself for one of the most important Arts and Crafts Houses in the North – Rounton Grange in North Yorkshire; attracting the interest of collectors and interior designers alike, this unique lot sold for £3,500 (below).

Diane Sinnott

Diane Sinnott


20th Century Design Specialist, General Valuer

+ 44 (0) 1969 623780

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