MORRIS, THE MACHINE,
AND MODERNISM, 1915–1934
I must ask you to extend the word art beyond those matters which are consciously works of art, to take in not only painting and sculpture, and architecture, but the shapes and colours of all household goods, nay, even the arrangement of the fields for tillage and pasture, the management of towns and of our highways of all kinds; in a word, to extend it to the aspect of all the externals of our life.
WILLIAM MORRIS 1
THIS CHAPTER EXAMINES HOW THE DISCOURSE of medieval modernism emerged during the First World War and developed in the 1920s, particularly through the influence of the Design and Industries Association. Established in 1915, the DIA set out to reconcile the ideas of Ruskin and Morris to the machine age by integrating art with industry, commerce, and education. Their aesthetic combined Fry and Bell's emphasis on “significant form” with the nineteenth-century romantic medievalists' stress on “fitness for purpose, ” uniting formalism with functionalism. While small numerically, the DIA's membership was prominent socially, and the organization's ideas concerning the social function of modern art were widely disseminated as well as appropriated by artists, teachers, government officials, and the media. Frank Pick was one of the earliest and most prominent members; we shall see in the next chapter how he and his associates at the DIA went beyond rhetoric by using the Underground to demonstrate the viability of integrating modern art with modern life. Through the efforts of the medieval modernists, the London Underground became the culminating project of the arts and crafts movement.
The unprecedented horrors of the Great War may have stimulated a reaction against romanticism among some interwar modernists, but it also imparted a