Gottlieb Biedermeier, a teasing middle-class papa best known for his appearances in a Munich satirical weekly, came to fame in the 1840s. A "god-loving everyman," he represented the typical German citizen, more interested in a comfortable home and a convivial family than political activism. The poets who created him, needling the bourgeoisie and signing their own work "Biedermeier," weren't thinking about the elegant housewares that now bear their pseudonym, varied by a letter. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, their alter ego had retroactively given his name to the aesthetics and philosophies of the period his attitudes suited so well, from 1815 to 1835. Biedermeier arts and crafts were orderly, frugal and simplistic. They tended to pare forms to their essentials, merging the useful with the beautiful. Eighteenth-century gilding and frills were stripped away in favor of the natural beauty of materials and shapes. What began as an intellectual critique soon developed into a new model for living. Biedermeier examines Biedermeier painting, furniture and decorative arts as a style and a cultural attitude. Visual arts of the period, which are still largely unstudied as distinct from Romanticism or the Nazarenes, are highlighted here in the work of Georg Friedrich Kersting and Eduard Gaertner. With nearly 300 outstanding examples of German, Austrian and Czechoslovakian paintings, furniture, related decorative arts and works on paper, this is a superb document of the innovative character of the period and its importance as a precursor to modernism.
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