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Byrdcliffe: An American Arts and Crafts Colony

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Byrdcliffe: An American Arts and Crafts Colony

by Nancy Green, Cheryl Robertson, Robert Edwards

About this title: Byrdcliffe is a colony founded as a center for artists and craftsmen in Woodstock. New York, in 1902-1903. It was started by Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead, a wealthy British disciple of John Ruskin and William Morris, who determined to make his mentors' visions of a communal arts and crafts colony a reality. In 1902 he bought twelve hundred acres on a mountainside overlooking the town. With the aid of artist-colleagues, including his wife, Jane Byrd McCall; Hervey White, a writer; and Bolton Brown, an artist; he erected thirty buildings to start the arts and crafts center he named Byrdcliffe. He then brought art workers to the colony and financed their production of furniture, textiles, metalwork, ceramics, paintings, and photographs, many of which may be seen in this book's two hundred color illustrations. These activities transformed Woodstock from a farming village to a center for creative people, an identity it still maintains today. Most of Byrdcliffe's architecture remains in its original setting. Byrdcliffe documents this rare example of architectural survival with vintage and contemporary photographs of the site. The authors also consider the unique role of music at the colony--Arnold Dolmetsch, pioneer of the use of authentic instruments, performed there, and the Whiteheads published two anthologies of folk music. Byrdcliffe was a center for literature and philosophy, as well: visitors included John Burroughs, John Dewey, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The Arts and Crafts movement was a genuine reformist impulse that swept Europe and the United States, creating many centers of activity that communicated with and cross-fertilized each other. New York State is an important part of theArts and Crafts story, and this book and the accompanying exhibition define Byrdcliffe's role in relation to other similar ventures such as Elbert Hubbard's Roycroft; Onteora Park, founded by Candace Wheeler in Tannersville; and the Craftsman movement led by Gustav Stickley.

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