It was a shapely reproduction of a bookcase by Gustav Stickley, the furniture maker and the first champion of the American arts and crafts movement, which first sparked entrepreneur Rudy Ciccarello’s enthusiasm for the history of American craftsmanship. “I was impressed with its simple and clean design, white American oak construction, beautiful finish, copper hardware and sturdiness,” he told AD PRO.
The Arts and Crafts movement, led in part by Stickley, championed a return to craftsmanship, flourishing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in reaction to the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent introduction of products from mass ; similar to what was happening across the pond under the direction of William Morris. “Not long after, I was on a business trip to Vermont to attend an auction when, by chance, the same, but original Stickley library went up for sale,” Ciccarello explains. “It started the journey that led me to become a student of the movement and a serious collector. This collection, which has since grown to 800 objects, now resides at the Museum of the American Movement of Arts and Crafts in St. Petersburg, Fla., Where the Ciccarello Foundation opened this month.
A 137,000 square foot museum by architect Alberto Alfonso was built specifically for the collection. Ciccarello describes it as “a contemporary design that. . . To pay[s] homage to the basic principles of the Arts and Crafts movement. Features such as American oak parquet, a material commonly used by early 20th-century American craftsmen, a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired five-story atrium with skylights on the roof, and a spiral staircase covered in Venetian-designed plaster. to evoke the Glasgow of Charles Rennie Mackintosh Rose, were chosen as subtle nods to the content of the collection.
Buy now for unlimited access and all the benefits that only members can enjoy.
The collection includes a wide array of the American Art and Crafts movement, including meticulously detailed pieces by carpenter Charles Rohlfs and historic Tiffany lamps. There are also large-scale installations of period pieces, such as the Iris Bathroom, which originates in industrialist Oliver Clay’s Cleveland mansion and features over 2,000 handmade Grueby tiles. Some highlights, according to Ciccarello, are “the incredible sideboard that Gustav Stickley made for his own house in Syracuse, the intricate lobby carvings that Greene and Greene made for the Culbertson house, a large vase depicting an elegant peacock by Fredrick Rhead, and the haunting portrait of sculptor Auguste Rodin by Edward Steichen. All of these works are distinguished by their “beauty, originality, craftsmanship and rarity,” he says.
Two inaugural exhibitions, made up of objects from the museum’s permanent collection, are currently on display. The first is “Love, Labor, and Art: The Roycroft Enterprise”, which features printed books, furniture, metalwork and lighting made by the Roycroft community. The second is “Lenses Embracing the Beautiful: Pictorial Photographs from the Two Red Roses Foundation”, which includes 150 illustrated photographs and rare books by members of the Arts and Crafts movement. Both shows allow visitors to experience the intricacies of a movement that laid the foundation for what we know today as American craftsmanship.