The Edwardian Era (1901-1919)

The Edwardian era corresponds with the reign of King Edward VIIKing Edward VII, whose short-lived governance (1901-1910) preceded the modern House of Windsor in England. The "Edwardian" style broadly encompasses the years of 1901 through 1919. One author described the Edwardian era in the following vein: "The end of the century brought the dawning of a new age and a new attitude toward life. It was an era when social differences dissipated and the mores, customs, and expectations of the citizenry came together." The Edwardian era was a historical moment of tremendous technological and social change. The wonders of the modern world, which had only sprang into being in the 1880s and 1890's, brought the first rewards of modern industrialization and mass-produced abundance. Americans during the Edwardian age experienced new-found wealth and indulged in cuisine, fashion, entertainment and travel as never before. Perhaps the Edwardian era was best captured in the Titanic, the grand ocean liner which embodied the human progress, opulence, and excesses of the time. The Edwardian era is aptly remembered as the "Gilded Age."

This period saw a variety of artistic movements such as Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism and Futurism; and toward the end of the period, Dadaism, De Stijl and Constructivism. However, perhaps the most popular, at least in mainstream America and Europe, was Art Nouveau. This new style of design in architecture, furniture, clothing, commercial art, and household articles entered the scene at the turn of the century, propelled by the enterprising spirit of Siegfried Bing, an elusive and brilliant connoisseur in Paris. The style was characterized by patterns and motifs inspired by nature and expressed in exuberant colors, forms, and lines. Artists whose names Louis Comfort Tiffany - "Magnolias and Irises"became synonymous with the style include the American Louis C. Tiffany, renowned for his stained glass windows and Favrile glass; the Austrian Gustav Klimt, recognized for his passionate, colourful paintings; the French Toulouse-Lautrec, famed for his posters of the demimonde, the Café-Concerts and Montmartre; Belgian Victor Horta, French Alphonse Mucha and Hector Guimard, celebrated for their architechtural genius displayed in their Metro stations; and Spanish Antonio Gaudi, known for his popular illustrations. Art Nouveau appealed especially to the enlightened elite and nouveau riches of the Edwardian era, whose tastes, uninhibited by tradition, encouraged designers to stylistic excesses. However, these patrons soon tired of the "new art", and the style was considered out of fashion and tacky before the first World War.

Extracted from Eras of Elegance


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