The Invention of Simplicity - Biedermeier | The Principles of Classical Art

The Style of Simplicity | The Ideal of Nature | Geometric Forms and Abstract Tendencies




An exhibition of the Deutsches Historisches Museum

in cooperation with the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Albertina in Vienna and the Musée du Louvre, Paris
Curators: Prof. Dr. Hans Ottomeyer, Albrecht Pyritz


Biedermeier - The Invention of Simplicity, an exhibition featuring 450 paintings, drawings, as well as works from all fields of decorative art, focuses on the very essence of this epoch’s artistic production. The determining features of Biedermeier art, as a counterbalance to the representational style that was dominant at the time, developed even before 1800, guided by a “reduction to the principles” of antique classicism. Between 1815 and 1830, with interruptions caused by the Napoleonic Wars, the objective style underwent further development, becoming characterized by simple surface designs, exact depictions of nature as well as by the use of elementary forms and colors, including even some abstract geometrical tendencies.


Contrary to a widespread assumption, the inspiration for this first “modern style” of the nineteenth century came from the European royal seats. The leading centers of art production in the enlightenment period were Weimar, Karlsruhe, Munich, Berlin, Copenhagen, Prague and Vienna. In the course of an initiative for economic reform, state-run model enterprises and private manufactories were founded, fostering a lively exchange among the urban centers as competition developed. Teaching the professional art of sketching at art academies, at the newly founded “drawings schools,” as well as at trade schools, laid the basis for today’s teaching of design.


The diverse insights into problems of design that were emerging through the natural sciences of botany, geology and mineralogy, brought about new structures of perception. In painting and graphic design, in cabinet making, porcelain and glass making, the new aim was an exact depiction of nature. Art magazines such as the Journal des Luxus und der Moden and the Schorn’sche Kunstblatt acted as a medium to communicate the new aesthetic program–including, for example, Goethe’s color theory. Only with the well-aimed distribution of the new style and increased familiarity with its innovative and characteristic designs, did a far-reaching reception of Biedermeier art by middle-class buyers begin, from around1830 onward.


Biedermeier - The Invention of Simplicity is an international cooperation of the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Albertina, Vienna and the Musée du Louvre, Paris.





Grundriss der Ausstellung in der Ausstellungshalle von I.M. Pei

Deutsches Historisches Museum