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Term applied to an intimate, unassuming style characteristic of much German and Austrian art and interior decoration in the period roughly between the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1815) and the Year of Revolutions (1848). The name derives from an invented character, an unintentionally comic poet called Gottlieb Biedermaier [sic], who in the 1850s was a ‘contributor’ to the Munich journal Fliegende Blätter (Flying Leaves); bieder means plain or solid and Maier is a common surname, like Smith or Jones in English, so the character was meant to exemplify conventional bourgeois values. When it was applied to the visual arts, the term was originally used pejoratively, implying sentimentality and parochial dullness, but later it came to suggest more positive values, including comfort, good craftsmanship, and unpretentious charm. Biedermeier painting is concerned with the everyday world, in subjects such as portraiture and still life, contrasting with the grand gestures of Neoclassicism and Romanticism. Spitzweg and Waldmüller are among the painters who best exemplify the style. The term is sometimes extended to cover the work of artists in other countries, for example Købke in Denmark.

Subjects: Art.

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