Ashbee trained as an architect and was articled to George Frederick Bodley (1827–1907). Bodley was known for his Gothic Revival buildings and became acquainted with William Morris, whose firm, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., he commissioned to produce stained glass and other elements for ecclesiastical interiors. Ashbee was to meet Morris in the January of 1886, a momentous moment in the young designers life. He referred to Morris as ‘The Poet’ in his dairy1. Ashbee went on to found the Guild and School of Handicraft which was opened in 1888, he wrote of it, 'Perhaps the most useful work I put my hand [to]'2. The Guild's primary pre-occupation was to promote those Ruskinian principles outlined above, particularly the ideals of true craftsmanship that so appealed to Ashbee. It was to be a centre of learning and where those working became teachers to students of woodwork, metalwork and decorative painting.
What is particularly interesting about the present lot is awareness by The Fine Art Society of the Guild's work at the time and a willingness, through the acquisition of this chair, to support the Guild's activities.
This chair is constructed in the most English of materials, oak. The form it takes relates closely to historic models and the 17th century ‘back-stool’, a development of the simple 'joined' stool. Both of these references would have been deliberate on the part of the Guild's craftsman.
1. B. G. Burroughs, 'Three Disciples of William Morris; Charles Robert Ashbee', The Connoisseur, vol. 172, p. 85
2. B. G. Burroughs, op. cit., p.87
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