On View: Decorative Art, 20th-Century Decorative Arts, 4th Floor
From the 1830s to the 1870s, designers of furniture, ceramics, metalwork, and other household objects drew their inspiration from historical styles such as the Gothic, Renaissance, and Rococo (see the Period Rooms along the corridor to your right). Beginning in the 1860s, designers and manufacturers responded to increased interest in other cultures and advocated a rejection of industrialized production. While today we strive to reflect more sensitively and knowledgeably on the appropriation of styles, symbols, and practices from cultures other than our own, in the nineteenth century there was no such awareness. European and American designers and manufacturers copied, adopted, and exploited images and customs from other cultures without respect or recognition. These manufacturers were trying to create interest in what was unfamiliar, regardless of sensitivity.
Objects both made in Japan and those that appropriated forms and motifs from Japanese models were especially popular, particularly after Commodore Matthew Perry forcibly opened Japanese ports to European and American trade in 1853. Although many of the objects on display here were industrially manufactured, critics promoted objects from cultures, such as Japan and the Islamic world, and historical styles, such as the Gothic, that evoked what were thought to be less industrialized and more “honest” forms of production.
During the 1850s, the development of wood pulp paper allowed for a proliferation of inexpensive magazines and books to be published, and some of these were directed toward the growing middle class, which was enjoying increased leisure time and more disposable income. Women were encouraged in these publications to furnish their homes with lighter furniture and objects. Often, this period of decoration is called the Aesthetic movement, “art for art’s sake,” or “the artistic interior,” and its profusion of highly decorated and painted and gilded surfaces on simple forms dominated domestic interiors.
Here, Ottoman-inspired vine patterns decorate ewer and vase forms, while Japanese motifs are loosely interpreted on a plaque, a silver Tiffany vase, and a gilt-handled vase. The writing desk by R. J. Horner is constructed of yellow-stained maple, resembling bamboo.
11 1/8 x 4 1/2 x 3 in. (28.3 x 11.4 x 7.6 cm) (show scale)
Co. logo printed in green with 'U'; applied, white, rectangular tag '3373'.
Gift of the Estate of Harold S. Keller
Ewer, ivory-bodied porcelain, of flattened inverted baluster shape; in the Turkish taste, the front and reverse of body molded into gilt-edged, lobe-shaped reserves, each painted with a flowering vine in underglaze blue; the sides of body green; the upright, molded spout and applied scrolled handle gilded; raised on a circular base with four lappet feet.
Condition: Very good.
Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Co. (founded 1750). Ewer, 1883. Porcelain, 11 1/8 x 4 1/2 x 3 in. (28.3 x 11.4 x 7.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Estate of Harold S. Keller, 1999.152.75. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, CUR.1999.152.75_mark.jpg)
. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2010
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The company that made this ewer, Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Co., was an English porcelain manufacturer and still exists today! They were a major competitor of American companies at the time.
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These vessels are both great examples of Aesthetic Movement design. They combine influences from Japan and the Near East.
Steam-powered ships and trains allowed ordinary people to travel further around the world. Because of this, design grew ever more eclectic! Also, wood pulp paper made printing cheaper and therefore there were more articles and images of Asian and Near Eastern art and culture. Designers freely appropriated them to create new, or fashionable, works of art without knowing or understanding the original context.