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.
10 1/16 x 7 3/8 in. (25.6 x 18.7 cm) (show scale)
Gift of Mrs. Willard C. Brinton
Broad baluster shape with high shoulder and wide straight neck with gilt rim. White body, but entire exterior with dull pink ground. Applied thick gold paste decoration in various shades with asymmetrical Aesthetic Movement motives including a duck in flight at center on shoulder against gold sponged clouds and below a large plant with curving leaves. Back with similar, but simpler, gold paste vegetal design. Applied large white reticulated handles outlined in gold.
Ott and Brewer (1871-1893). Vase, ca. 1885. Porcelain, gilding, 10 1/16 x 7 3/8 in. (25.6 x 18.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mrs. Willard C. Brinton, 47.30.3. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 47.30.3.jpg)
overall, 47.30.3.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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