Morris, William - by David Bruce Hegeman
William Morris - The Man Who (Re)Discovered Art with a Little 'a'
by David Bruce Hegeman
Hans Rookmaaker, in the opening chapter of his delightful little book Art Needs No Justification, gives a brief, penetrating analysis of the changing role of the artist in the modern art world. He focuses his study on how the West arrived at the present dichotomy of high and low art.
In most cultures, including our own, before the new period that began between 1500 and 1800, artists were primarily craftsmen: art meant making things according to certain rules, the rules of the trade. Artists were accomplished workers who knew how to carve a figure, paint a Madonna, build a chest, make a wrought iron gate, cast a bronze candlestick, weave a tapestry, work in gold or silver, make a saddle in leather, and so on. . . The role of artists, as well as of the arts themselves, began to change in some European countries during the Renaissance.