The 36th National Arts & Crafts Conference at Asheville’s Omni Grove Park Inn celebrates the enduring movement by convening many of the century-old style’s most talented present-day artists and craftspeople. Three juried shows comprising furniture, pottery and tile, jewelry, textiles, paintings, rugs, lighting, and more occur during the three-day February event.
One of the artists featured is Shawn Krueger, a landscape painter whose work sits comfortably in both the American Tonalist and Arts & Crafts traditions. In 2021, Krueger was honored with the designation of Master Artisan by the Roycrofters-at-Large Association — a nonprofit devoted to sustaining the evolution of the Arts and Crafts movement. Krueger is officially based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but spends large swaths of the year in Weaverville, where he paints the local landscape and sets up area exhibits. Last summer, Grovewood Gallery hosted a solo show of his work; Krueger reports that his Asheville friends “joke that at this point I’m more of a local than a lot of locals.”
Krueger traces his discovery of the parallels between Arts & Crafts traditions and Tonalism to the first home he owned — a Craftsman-style bungalow. “That style was new and exciting to me, and just hit me in the right spot. Since then, I haven’t really strayed from Tonalism because there is so much to dig into, discover, and improve upon.”
The signature style emphasizes the tonal quality of paintings to create mood, emotion, and atmosphere. In his studio, Krueger tries to convey what he felt when he was in a particular place, rather than attempting to recreate strictly accurate representations. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Tonalism was considered avant-garde, as artists established it as stylistically independent from European art and academia — and for years, Tonalism totally dominated America’s art scene.
“It was the first American movement where the artists weren’t going back to Europe to study,” explains Krueger, “and all of the leading American artists whose work was exhibited at the big Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 were Tonalists.” The movement was also influenced by the early development of black-and-white photography, which brought widespread attention to the monochromatic value range in visual art.
“There’s even a tenuous through-line from Tonalist James Whistler to Picasso,” Krueger reveals. “Whistler spent time in Paris, where his work was likely seen by Picasso around the same time that Picasso embarked on his Blue Period.”
In addition to its displays of antiques and new work, the conference at the Grove Park — which houses the country’s largest public collection of original Craftsman and Mission furniture — also features curated tours, seminars, demonstrations, and hands-on workshops covering coppersmithing, embroidery, and woodblock printmaking. As the event’s Director Emeritus Bruce Johnson proclaims, “In just three days, you will see more, do more, and learn more about the American Arts and Crafts movement than you could anywhere else in an entire year.”
The 36th National Arts & Crafts Conference takes place Friday, Feb. 17 through Sunday, Feb. 19 at Asheville’s Omni Grove Park Inn. For more information, visit arts-craftsconference.com. To learn more about artist Shawn Krueger, visit shawnkrueger.com and on Instagram.