This series of short blogs have, over the last few weeks, detailed a brief history of furniture styles and trends, from the practical rock and bone furnishings of the Stone Age through to the whimsical and lavish designs of the Renaissance and Rococo eras. The Rococo era represented the waning end of hand-carved furniture as the industrial revolution would bring with is factory-made, mass-produced furniture. The eras that follow began to be defined by less flashy designs as modern trends took hold. But first, the revival era saw the re-emergence of many previous designs.
The Revival Era
The Revival Era was driven by the industrial revolution. As cities industrialised and grew and the working classes began taking up positions in factories and production plants, a new market arose from the wealthy for furniture styles of the past. With the decline of individual craftsmen and the rise of mass production, this demand could be met relatively cheaply, and imitation styles skyrocketed. The Revival Era was actually a collection of smaller, specific revival periods which overlapped and ran the entire length of the century. In this time the Ancient Egyptian and Greek styles saw a revival – known as Neoclassicism, then the Rococo and Renaissance styles had their own renaissance, before finally the Gothic furniture style was revived toward the end of the 19th century.
Art Nouveau literally translates to “new art” in French and arose toward the end of the 19th century in Paris. It is said that this style was inspired by the works of Czech artist Alphonse Mucha, whose lithographs moved away from the more academic artistic style of the era and toward more curved, abstract lines. Art Nouveau furniture typically used metal or hard woods to fashion strong but elegantly slim legs for chairs and tables, while the rest of the piece was adorned with fluid curves and artful flicks. The Art Nouveau period is the last time we see such classical and artful design, and the availability of materials took off in the 20th century and we began to see a wide array of metals, plastics and fabrics take over furniture design. We’ll take a look at this in the Bauhaus era, next week!