rthur Heygate Mackmurdo was educated at Felsted School, and articled briefly to T. Chatfield Clarke before entering the office of James Brooks in 1869. At Oxford in 1873 he attended lectures by Ruskin whilst studying at the Ruskin School of Drawing; the following year he toured Italy with Ruskin himself, before setting up his own architectural practice at 28 Southompton Street, London. He met William Morris in 1877 who stimulated his interest in the Applied arts; in 1882 this was to result in the founding of the Century Guild of Artists which aimed to produce decorative work in every bronch of interior design and "to render all branches of art the sphere no longer of the trodesman but of the artist." His associates in this venture were Selwyn Image, Herbert Home, William De Morgan, Heywood Sumner, Benjamin Creswick, Clement Heaton, George Esling and Kellock Brown, who between them managed to cover an impressive array of different craft skills.
The Guild's products included furniture, fabrics, wallpaper, stained gloss and metolwork as well as the magazine, The Hobby Horse, which first appeared in 1884, printed at the Chiswick Press and lovishly illustrated with woodcuts by Image and Home. The Guild first exhibited at the Health Exhibition in London in the same year, though their distinctive style did not emerge until 1886 with their stand shown at the Liverpool Intennational Exhibition.
The Guild flourished until 1888, but was then disbanded; however many of the members continued to work in close association. Mackmurdo's infiuence on Continental Ad Nouveau has also been recognised as seminal, especially through the curvilinear ornament of his title page for Wren's City Churches (1883), which echoes his chair-back of the previous year. Mackmurdo's architectural work, taken up again after 1888, included the Savoy Hotel (1889), a house in Chelsea for the artist, Mortimer Menpes with the most remarkable Japonese-style interior, and his own houses in Essex.
Apart from Mackmurdo, Selwyn Image (1844-1930) was the most powerful artistic personality to emerge from The Century Guild. The son of a clergyman, he was educated at Marlborough and New College, Oxford, before taking orders in 1872; he was dismissed from his curacy ten years later and joined Mackmurdo in founding The Guild. in 1900 he was Master of the Art Workers' Guild, and from 1910-16, Slade Professor of Fine Arts at Oxford. — Architect-Designers from Pugin to Mackintosh
Architect-Designers from Pugin to Mackintosh. Exhibition catalogue. London: The Fine Art Society with Haslam & Whiteway Ltd., 1981.
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Vallance, Aymer. "Mr. Arthur H. Mackmurdo and the Centrury Guild." The Studio. 16 (1899): 183-92.
Last modified 21 April 2007