Journal Article

The Production and Display of Domestic Interiors in Wilhelmine Germany, 1900–1914

John V. Maciuika

in German History

Published on behalf of German History Society

Volume 25, issue 4, pages 490-516
Published in print October 2007 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online October 2007 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI:
The Production and Display of Domestic Interiors in Wilhelmine Germany, 1900–1914

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In the opening years of the twentieth century, the German home assumed new cultural meanings and symbolic significance as a site of economic, political, artistic, and social intervention. This article investigates a range of Wilhelmine institutions—from the Wertheim department store and the Prussian Commerce Ministry, to the Applied Arts Movement and the Movement for Art Education—to illustrate the variety of German approaches to promoting new conceptions of the home. Examining the ways in which Wilhelmine private and state reformers turned the topic of how one lived and dwelled into a topic of pressing significance, the article argues that private, commercial efforts and state-driven policy initiatives interpenetrated to a degree previously underappreciated in Wilhelmine historical studies. These private and state initiatives were, in turn, closely tied to the cultivation of German consumer identities, and to larger efforts on the part of Wilhelmine institutions to adapt to the dizzying conditions of twentieth-century capitalist modernity. As a result of these developments, special exhibitions of artistic home interiors originated in premier German department stores as well as in the halls of the state bureaucracy; historical ornaments termed ‘modern’ in one decade were denigrated as barbaric in another; and generations of craftsmen battled one another for a legitimacy conferred, to a significant degree, by private commissions, generous state subsidies, and admission into prestigious exhibitions.

Keywords: Wilhelmine era; consumption; department stores; state policy; design reform; Wertheim

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: European History

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