Saturday, June 30, 2007

Victoriana 1930

My article "Victoriana 1930"--on the Victorian revival in 1930s interior design--was published in the Spring 2007 issue of Nineteenth Century, the magazine of the Victorian Society in America ( An excerpt from the article is below. If you'd like a copy of the complete article let me know, -Alan.
In 1930, with art deco lingering and the modernist aesthetic of the Bauhaus spreading, Martha Fischer wrote, in the magazine House Beautiful, that "we all know, by this time, that in the matter of decoration the Victorian style is lifting its head from the bog of obloquy to which it had been consigned these many years." A Victorian revival was, indeed, stirring amongst avant-garde tastemakers who just a few years earlier were devotees of the geometric deco aesthetic or the clinical chrome, glass and plain white walls of modernism. For these cutting-edge trend-setters Victoriana was so far out that it was suddenly in.
A pronounced neo-Victorian aesthetic was soon also championed by more conventional interior decorators and adopted even by ordinary homemakers, or at least those who had a subscription to House Beautiful or House and Garden and followed those magazines’ directives.The Victorian revival that developed in the 1930s was not simply an aesthetic reversion to the past or an attempt to recreate historically accurate period d├ęcor for accuracy's sake. For the fashionable style-setters, the re‑presentation of mid‑19th century style was an explicit challenge to the modernist machine aesthetic. The challenge was made through the placement of the most fantastic Victorian design elements within a modernist architectural envelope, achieving an apparently irrational juxtaposition that revealed a surrealist undercurrent in interior design.
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