Liberty & Co Arts and Crafts Furniture
As the Arts and Crafts movement developed in the latter years of the 19th Century, the most prestigious company in the design and marketing of Arts and Crafts furniture and decorative art was Liberty & Co. Perhaps best known for luxurious fabrics and the beautiful pewter, silver and enamelled work of Archibald Knox, the Liberty style also included furniture and an interior design service from their own ‘Studio’. A new book by Daryl Bennett provides a comprehensive account of the range of Liberty Furniture and the evolution of Liberty style. See Liberty’s Furniture 1875 to 1915. The Birth of Modern Interior Design. See the review of this book
Liberty & Co opened in Regent Street in 1875 and in the following 30 years developed a glowing reputation for style and quality in furniture and interior decoration. From the early days of imported Arabian, Moorish, and Oriental ware, Liberty design became, with the help of Leonard Wyburd, a defining influence in Arts and Crafts style. The success of Liberty & Co was due in large measure to the business acumen of Arthur Liberty who excelled in creating an exciting shopping experience and in ‘selling the dream’. Liberty’s success however was more than just a marketing phenomenon. The firm established distinctive styles under the direction of artist and designer Leonard Wyburd who created some of the finest examples of Arts and Crafts furniture, prized by museums and collectors today. See Victoria and Albert Museum
Arthur Liberty was a businessman who strove to influence taste and ultimately to make money. He created a shopping empire on the principles of good business acumen, rather than the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement as might be defined by Ruskin or William Morris. Nevertheless, the furniture of Liberty and Co, seemed to capture so perfectly the sentiments, the design and construction which defined the Arts and Crafts style. With the creative and also opportunistic design, high quality construction, and state of the art marketing through catalogues and advertising it is not surprising that Liberty & Co emerged head and shoulders above their competitors. In providing the new middle classes with ‘artistic’ and tasteful furnishing, Liberty & Co also created some of the most beautiful and enduring examples of Arts and Crafts furniture design and decoration.