Cover image of the review
Installation view of Truth, Beauty & Utility: The Arts and Crafts Movement in Heidelberg, Heidelberg Historical Society

Truth, Beauty and Utility: the Arts and Crafts Movement in Heidelberg

9 Apr 2022
1 Oct - 1 Dec 2022

The Arts and Crafts Movement can be somewhat difficult to appreciate as a precursor to the modernism of the early twentieth century given its “return to tradition” ethos. Although it sought to clear the clutter of the eclectic Victorian style, it ended up with the air of an antique store, another historicism albeit more refined. This latent antiqueness makes the headquarters of the Heidelberg Historical Society a perfect location for the exhibition Truth, Beauty & Utility: the Arts and Crafts Movement in Heidelberg, curated by Steven Barlow. The society is housed in a nineteenth-century courthouse, with the exhibition beneath the dark wood dome of the courtroom. The society’s archive bleeds out onto the edge of the exhibition space as plastic boxes, bags and bound volumes peek out from beneath what was originally a magistrate’s bench.

The exhibition features printmaking and pottery, though the primary focus is domestic architecture. These are the numerous houses in an Arts and Crafts style that cluster along the leafy recesses and rolling hills of the surrounding suburbs of Heidelberg, with the ubiquitous Californian bungalow now the movement’s most present form. An architectural mash-up of Tudor gables, timber shingles, stucco rendering, beaming sunrise-like porches, Japanese-derived “Tori gates” and so on, these were the work of mostly anonymous building companies that produced endless refrains on the bungalow from the late 1900s through to the end of the 1930s.

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