The Biedermeier (1815-1848)

The Biedermeier period was an era in Central Europe which began with the Congress of Vienna at the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and ended with the onset of the  Revolutions of 1848. Biedermeier was an influential German style of furniture design .Although the term itself derives from a literary reference from the period, it is used mostly to denote the artistic styles that flourished in the fields of literature, music, the visual arts and interior design. It has influenced later styles, especially those originating in Vienna .

Throughout the period, emphasis was kept upon clean lines and minimal ornamentation consistent with the basis of the Biedermeier in utilitarian principles. As the period progressed, however, the style moved from the early rebellion against Romantic-era fussiness to increasingly ornate commissions by a rising middle class, eager to show their newfound wealth. The idea of clean lines and utilitarian postures would resurface in the 20th century, continuing into the present day. Middle to late  Biedermeier furniture design represented a heralding towards historicism and revival eras long sought for. Social forces originating in France would change the artisan-patron system that achieved this period of design, first in the German states, and then into Scandinavia.
The middle class growth originated in the Industrial Revolution in Britain and many Biedermeier designs owe their simplicity to Georgian lines of the 19th century, as the proliferation of design publications reached the loose German states and Austria-Hungary.

The Biedermeier period was more of a particular mood and collection of trends and less of an era with the growing industrialization and urbanization taking the lead in its development. Political stability after the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna also led to the development of this era, along with the introduction of a new urban class,The Biedermeier style. The style was designed to be flashy to the middle class but less glamorous to the high class. The emergence of the middle class brought a large influx of aristocratic people into the cities and helped establish new artistic tastes for the upper class. After the reign of Emperor Francis I, the courts of Europe became more similar in style and approach, which gave rise to this concept. The middle class was considered the true middle of society and was the representative of high culture and the artisans of the lower classes.

The evolution of the style is traced to a wide array of influences in the cultural and social spheres that took shape before, during, and after the Congress of Vienna, but most notably, the passing of a combination of democratic reforms in the Habsburg Empire.

Modest informs the Biedermeier period saw an emphasis on music, dance, theater, and literature among the aristocracy.

Biedermeier furniture used locally available materials such as cherry, ash, and oak woods rather than the expensive timbers such as fully imported mahogany. Whilst this timber was available near trading ports such as Antwerp, Hamburg, and Stockholm, it was taxed heavily whenever it passed through another principality. This made mahogany very expensive to use and much local cherry and pearwood was stained to imitate the more expensive timbers. Stylistically, the furniture was simple and elegant.

Many unique designs were created in Vienna, primarily because a young apprentice was examined on his use of material, construction, originality of design, and quality of cabinet work, before being admitted to the league of approved master cabinetmakers. Furniture from the earlier period (1815–1830) was the most severe and neoclassical in inspiration. It also supplied the most fantastic forms which the second half of the period (1830–1848) lacked, being influenced by the many style publications from Britain. Biedermeier furniture was the first style in the world that emanated from the growing middle class. It preceded Victoriana and influenced mainly German-speaking countries. In Sweden, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, whom Napoleon appointed as ambassador to Sweden to sideline his ambitions, abandoned his support for Napoleon in a shrewd political move. Later, after being adopted by the King of Sweden (who was childless), he became Sweden’s new king as Karl XIV Johan. The Swedish Karl Johan style, similar to Biedermeier, retained its elegant and blatantly Napoleonic style throughout the 19th century.

Biedermeier furniture and lifestyle was a focus of exhibitions at the Vienna applied arts museum in 1896. The many visitors to this exhibition were so influenced by this fantasy style and its elegance that a new resurgence or revival period became popular amongst European cabinetmakers. This revival period lasted up until the Art Deco style was taken up. Biedermeier also influenced the various Bauhaus styles through their truth in material philosophy.

The original Biedermeier period changed with the political unrest of 1845–1848 (its end date). With the revolutions in European historicism, furniture of the later years of the period took on a distinct Wilhelminian or Victorian style.

The term Biedermeier is also used to refer to a style of clocks made in Vienna in the early 19th century. The clean and simple lines included a light and airy aesthetic, especially in Viennese regulators of the Laterndluhr  and Dachluhr styles.