Liberalism, nationalism and the evolution of middle-class values : the literature on interior decoration in England, 1875-1914.
In the 1870s and 80s, the interior decoration of the middle-class home was the focus of a great deal of attention, as reflected in a dramatic increase in the literature on this subject in the form of handbooks 'for those about to furnish', articles in women's magazines, trade Journals and publications for artists and architects. This literature expressed the most advanced ideas of the day and actively promoted such progressive concepts as individual freedom of expression, cosmopolitan internationalism, the need for improvement in the position of women, and the application of new scientific theories This thesis traces these ideas to the political ideology of modern British liberalism which was at its most influential during this period Liberal writers, in particular John Stuart Mill, wrote persuasively about the primacy of the private sphere of life In their view, it was only in private life that man could develop true individuality through freedom of choice, this concept had important implications for the appearance of the home Many of those who wrote on interior decoration had read Mill, or were involved with reform movements or political activities inspired by liberal theories As a result, they tried to bring about social change through the application. of liberal principles to the decoration of the middle-class home There were also, however, sharp disagreements expressed in the decorating literature about what constituted the optimal middle-class interior These conflicts reflected areas of unresolvable tension within the ideological framework of liberalism; their impact on interior decoration is explored as well As the influence of liberalism waned, the values expressed in the literature on decoration changed correspondingly The importance of the home in the formation of national character was given greater emphasis and a return to 'correct' and traditional national styles was seen as a necessary protection against both internal weakness and the 'foreign contagion' of European styles such as Art Nouveau
AuthorsNeiswander, Judith Ann
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