Reform of Applied Art

The first World Exhibition in the year 1851 in London marked a turning point in the history of applied art. With one half showing products from 94 foreign countries and the other half British products, the Exhibition made clear that French applied art was superior to all other European forms. The British Government reacted immediately. It organized better promotion of the trades and founded an institution to promote art, applied art and education – the South Kensington Museum for Applied Art with an affiliated college. These steps were the basis for positive development, already apparent in 1862 at the second World Exhibition, also held in London.

Although in Germany one had also recognized the deficit in the exhibitions of 1851 and 1862, efforts to reform the arts and crafts were first initiated at the end of the sixties, when it became obvious that promotion of the trades had been economically successful for Great Britain. In 1868 an arts and crafts museum with an appropriate college was founded in Berlin along the lines of the South Kensington Museum. Arts and crafts colleges differed considerably from art academies; they were aimed specifically at the requirements of industry and craftsmanship. The promotion and reform of arts and crafts contributed to an improvement in the quality of the trades, which had suffered under the upheavals of the industrial revolution and had consequently become a factor important for the national economy. The outcome of the reorganization of arts and crafts teaching was that many young artists and craftsmen broke away from the historicizing forms that reigned in architecture and the skilled trades. In Britain the modern style emerged, in France and Belgium art nouveau and in Austria the »secessionist« style. Artists called for a new and constructive style. In around 1896 a weekly magazine was issued in Munich with the title »Jugend« (Youth) and committed to a progressive policy. It finds favour with numerous young artists, among them Peter Behrens who shortly thereafter is called to the Darmstädter Künstlerkolonie (artists colony). The title of the magazine stems from the newly created »Jugendstil« (modern style).