Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Victorian Era_A

The Victorian Era was highlighted by organic carvings and ornamentation covering as much surface as possible. Even the middle class could afford to clutter their homes with decoration. With the implication of mass production, merchandise were produced much quicker and cheaper, allowing the lower income homes to be able to afford to decorate. As much “stuff” went into middle class homes, even more went into upper class homes to the point of which it makes you wonder how they even got around in their own homes. Especially considering light could barely penetrate the room through the many layers of thick curtains and blinds onto the dark walls of the interior. As you can see in the image to the left, the dark floral wallpaper and the vibrant colors of the cluttered furniture makes the space very busy and therefore interpreted as affluent.

This ostentatious display of decoration was associated with wealth, so the English of the Victorian Era crammed their homes with furniture, knickknacks, and luxury items, such as pianos, to show their refinement and taste. Homes were not the only element they enhanced to demonstrate their wealth. The Victorian’s attire was also exaggerated, which actually had an effect on interior spaces. The wide bell skirts required a wider seat and even staircases were widened to accommodate the style of clothing in the Victorian Era.

England was not the only country to embrace the design ideology of the Victorian era. Most of the styles that came out of England were influential all over, specifically in the United States. However, America did not take on quite as much of the organic quality of the English Victorian style, but refined the style into a more straight forward, controlled look. In the translation of the Victorian Era to America, some of the creativity, vitality, and the fluid quality of the style was lost.

Some Critics argue that the Victorian Era marks a low point in design as far as aesthetic quality and taste is concerned. The abundance of ornamentation can be viewed as gaudy and tasteless to some. Do you agree that the Victorian era was a low point in design or was the style aesthetically successful? Also, do you feel as though the way in which America interpreted or refined the style was an improvement or a step back?


8 comments:

G.Fickle said...

I feel that the Victorian style is very gaudy, although I do believe some of the elements do have potential. I understand the fact that people wanted to show thier wealth and did so by having so much stuff. They were excited to be able to have all that new fangled mass produced item. We still show our wealth today, but in different ways. Today we do that by what type of car we drive, or how big our diamonds are, or how much plastic surgury we are able to afford. Anyway, that was a social norm back then and it should be repected as such, whether one likes it or not.

As far as America bringing the Victorian style from England, I believe they did so in a much more refrained way that looked much more aesthetically pleasing. There was still a lot of stuff, but there was more room here for stuff, so that it didn't look so gaudy.

emily said...

Following the Industrial Revolution, the Victorian Era was an astonishing mixture of functional design and ornamental detail. Over all, it was not a low point for design but an inexpensive strategy to cover flaws of merchandise and to make people look wealthier than they were. It appealed to consumers who could buy a cheap imitation of an expensive product. In the same way, present-day-society practices economically beneficial alternatives for expensive items. Although these items may be bad imitations, meaning they appear to be poorly made, there are other ornamentations on products that appear realistic and classy. This was beneficial for middle class individuals who wanted to look richer than they were, a desire common throughout history.

The Victorian era was not a step back but rather a learning lesson and a step forward for future designs. For example, the way in which Americans interpreted or refined this style was improved. The Aesthetic movement led to the designs of William Morris, a textile designer whose fabrics are still popular today. And although the Victorian era was too ornamental and overly showy, it brought forth many ideas and creations that are still beneficial to designers.

Mary Margaret said...

I do not necessarily think that it was a step back in design because during that time it was seen as normal if you had money to flaunt it. Personally I would not want to live in a space that had so much ornamentation but that is my personal preference and I feel that design does not always suit everyone. As someone stated earlier it was the norm back then even though today it is not.
The dark rich colors and all of the ornamentation would, to me, make me feel very enclosed and not very comfortable in the space. In the picture the furniture and ornamentation is beautiful even though it is very dark and elaborate.

brittney said...

Although I'd have to agree with Mary Margaret in terms of the Victorian Style not being my personal favorite, I do find it not only interesting, but a very pivotal and crucial step in leading design to where it is today. This is where eclecticism really began to evolve and become the center of what we base so many of our present designs on. Afterall, that is all we can be...a jumble, if you will, of culture, time, and taste.

Despite being far less dark, heavy, or cluttered, we are still in many ways, very similar to the Victorian Era in terms of how we furnish our offices, homes, and lives in general. Americans, especially, are all about showing off what they have, have had or can get in any material means neccessary. Although showing off today may mean having the newest cell phone, the most expensive car or the biggest loft apartment with the very best view rather than having rooms upon rooms covered with the heaviest fabric, the most expensive vases and the latest toilet, it is showing off all the same.

This sounds like we are just a society of egocentric and conceited braggarts, but it is really that we just have a love and longing for nice things...and lots of them...and I think that in many instances it is precisely this that drives the industry of design and, for this reason, should be appreciated.

algrun2 said...

The Victorian style was known for it's extreme excessiveness and though many of us today look at this period and cringe because of it's overwhelming appearance, I do believe that it was appropriate for this time period. After the Industrial Revolution, people became obssesed with gadgets. The more gadgets a person had, the better the person they portrayed to be. Therefore, the Victorian era was a race to see who could obtain the most stuff and be considered the wealthiest. This is in direct relation to today because in today's society the same basic principle to obtain many things is sought, but focus is now more directed to quality than pure accumulation.

The adaptation of the Victorian style in America was just as greatly admired, but a little more tame and restricted. Without introduction to this style America and other parts of the world could possibly still lie designerly challenged. The Victorian era was not only beneficial to England, but to the whole world by acting as a reference and guide.

Jonathan Fox said...

The victorian era was great! How else would we know what gaudy looked like? True, that era was ver over-designed to the point of being an eyesore, but it did bring some very interesting design styles that were later refined. The american interpretation of Victorian took the basic elements of the style and gave them structure, toned them down and truned the style into one known more for it's class and beauty. Thats kind of funny because Americans are usually known for taking simple things and messing it all up. In my opinion, there have never been any bad design styles, just styles that showed us what not to do in the future. Without bad design, can there be good design?

sally9787 said...

The Victorian era was one that people have so many different opinions on because it is simply about taste. While seperately, a lot of the things in these rooms would have been nice, all together it is cluttered and looks messy. However, like it has been stated before, it was the style then. In 100 years people could look back and say the same thing about how people are using so much glass and steel for buildings and designs. While Americans did somewhat refine the Victorian era designs, it was still very gaudy and over the top. But, this was how people showed their wealth, and even though it is tacky in my opinion, to them it was classy and meant money. So overall, the Victorian era wasn't a mistake, it was necessary because many different design ideas have spawned from this and like others have said, it has taught us what to do and what not to do, and where to draw the line.

Becca Cole said...

While the Victorian era could be considered a low point in design, this is a statement made by today's standards. What we consider to be aethetically pleasing now is a subjective matter and could have been seen extremely different during that time. While we see cluttered room, which could be overwhelming to the eye, the people of that time could have seen incredible beauty in it.

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