Tag Archives: domestic interiors

Review: Representing Homes from the Victorians to the Moderns

homes

Domestic Interiors: Representing Homes from the Victorians to the Moderns, ed. Georgina Downey (Bloomsbury, London, 2013)

“Interiors” are the very things which all the younger men are industriously striving to paint. Restful ladies in dim or sunny rooms, in the midst of their own pretty furniture, and sometimes raptly nursing their own pretty babies – these, nowadays, are the ends of every young painter’s desire. Alas for the vanity of the endeavour!’ (Max Beerbohm, The Saturday Review, 18th April 1903)

As this comment suggests, the domestic interior was something of an obsession among Edwardian artists. Around the turn of the century, the bi-annual exhibitions of the New English Art Club were overwhelmed by a flood of paintings depicting (in the words of one disgruntled critic) ‘dingy London rooms with plain walls, highly polished furniture, a green door or dado, one figure or more, and frequently a green-shaded lamp’.[1] There were several key inspirations behind this cult, ranging from contemporary Scandinavian drama and the popularity of seventeenth-century Dutch art, to the ever-pressing desire of the artistic community to make their mark on interior design. That this ambition fell under the purview of the painter was never in doubt; not for a generation who had grown up with the names of Rossetti and Whistler ringing in their ears. In the early 1900s, the domestic interior was a battlefield containing several armies of competing tastes; a subject on which almost everyone had an opinion or a preference. It was much more than a matter of dados or lamps: the interior was the space in which identities were made. Continue reading