Biedermeier Style of Art
Characteristics, 19th Century Painting, Interior Design in Germany, Austria, Denmark.

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Corpus Christi morning (1857)
Belvedere Palace Museum, Vienna.
By Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller, the
leading Austrian Biedermeier painter.

Biedermeier Style of Art (c.1810-60)


What is Biedermeier?
History and Characteristics
Biedermeier Painting in Germany
Biedermeier Painting in Austria
Biedermeier Art in Denmark
Other Art Movements in Germany & Austria

The Poor Poet (1837)
Neue Pinakothek, Munich.
By Carl Spitzweg, the top
Biedermeier artist in Germany.

For a guide, see: Definition of Art.

What is Biedermeier?

The term "Biedermeier" (in use since around 1900) refers to the style of German Art of the 19th Century that flourished in painting, interior design and architecture, as Neoclassical art was giving way to Romanticism, that is, between 1815, the year of the Congress of Vienna (which redrew European borders at the end of the Napoleonic War), and 1848, the year of Continental disturbances and revolutions. Usually the name of an artistic movement reflects its essence or the intellectual program of its founders; sometimes it even criticizes past movements. The name Biedermeier, on the other hand, is the name of a fictional character (Gottlieb Biedermeier) that regularly appeared in a satirical magazine of the time (Munich Fliegende Blatter). The character of Biedermeier is a metaphor for the German middle class because the Biedermeier style was directed at this public. Like Dutch Realist Genre Painting of the 17th century, but with a Romantic touch, Biedermeier was essentially a feel-good type of early modern art, designed to reassure respectable people that life was secure and that their values were correct. It attracted both Realist and Romantic artists.

Woman in front of Mirror (1841)
Hirschsprung Coll. Copenhagen.
By Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg.
Denmark's Biedermeier expert.

For details of art movements
and styles, see: History of Art.
For a quick guide to specific
styles, see: Art Movements.

For a list of the Top 10 painters/
sculptors: Best Artists of All Time.
For the best oils/watercolours,
see: Greatest Paintings Ever.

History and Characteristics

Biedermeier aesthetics emerged from two phases in early 19th-century German history: firstly, the country's growing industrialization leading to a new urban middle class; secondly, the growing political oppression in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, causing people to focus on domestic and non-political issues. Thus Biedermeier painters painted historical fiction and country life, pictorializing a comfortable homely existence. This atmosphere changed by the time of the revolutions in Europe in 1848. In effect, Biedermeier gave a "domestic" interpretation of the noble Neoclassical Empire style, dwelling on homely genre painting, intimate portrait art, and a style of reassuring, national history painting. In its interior design, the formal language of its furniture and interior space resembles Neoclassicism, but the syntax between the different elements is plain, flowing and simplified. No Biedermeier household, for instance, was complete without its secretary desk for letter writing, or its piano, for regular soirees. Such occasions reinforced the middle class's cultural interests in literature and poetry readings.


Biedermeier Painting in Germany

Biedermeier developed in painting mainly in Germany and in the vast territories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Characterized by subjects that are so accessible that they verge on the banal, they include composed family portraits, meticulously executed still life painting, and small, everyday scenes reminiscent of 17th century Dutch genre paintings. See, for instance, The Poor Poet (1837, Neue Pinakothek, Munich). As a whole the idiom depicts a complacent society without great flights of fancy, but with clearly defined limitations. It is important to note that a feeling of national pride - not expressed in a heroic and individual way, but shared by the whole community - also permeates these works. The most representative German painters include Carl Spitzweg (1808-85), Johann Friedrich August Tischbein (1750-1818), Moritz von Schwind (1804-71), Adrian Ludwig Richter (1803-1884), and others, like Franz Kruger, Georg Kersting and Julius Oldach.

Biedermeier Painting in Austria

Austrian Biedermeier art is marked by a sentimental, pious view of the world painted in a realistic true-to-life way. Biedemeier subjects aimed to reinforce feelings of security and gemutlichkeit, avoiding all political and social commentary. Biedermeier paintings were designed not only as a narrative of past times, but also as a representation of the present. See, for instance, Portrait of the Arthaber Family (1837) by Friedrich von Amerling; or the genre paintings Controversy of the Coachmen (1828) by Michael Neder, and Waldmuller's Corpus Christi morning (Am Fronleichnamsmorgen) (1857).

Important Austrian Biedermeier painters include Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller (1793-1865), Friedrich von Amerling (1803-87), Johann Baptist Reiter (1813-90), Peter Fendi (1796-1842), Josip Tominz (1790-1866), Friedrich Gauermann (1807-62), Michael Neder (1807-82), Josef Danhauser (1805-45), Edmund Louis Eduard Wodick (1806-86) and others.

Biedermeier Art in Denmark

In Denmark, the Biedermeier era coincided with the "Danish Golden Age", a period of intense creativity in Denmark, which included the paintings of Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1783-1853) and his students. They succeeded in evoking the world of domestic security and affection, as well as the feelings and gestures of bourgeois intimisme. See, for instance, Eckersberg's Woman Standing in front of a Mirror (1841, Hirschsprung Collection, Copenhagen). Other Danish Biedermeier art includes paintings by Christen Kobke, Martinus Rorbye, Wilhelm Bendz, Wilhelm Marstrand and Constantin Hansen, as well as neoclassical sculptures inspired by the famous Bertel Thorvaldsen (1768-1844).


Biedermeier architectural design is characterized by clear simplicity and elegance - one of the most typical Biedermeier buildings is the Stadttempel, in Vienna - while in Denmark Biedermeier architectural design developed along Neoclassical lines, with buildings designed by Christian Frederik Hansen and by Michael Gottlieb Bindesboll. Its combination of simplicity, and functionality had an important influence on later design movements such as Art Nouveau (and its German variant Jugendstil), as well as the influential Bauhaus Design School, the melting pot of 20th century architecture.


Biedermeier works are held in some of the best art museums in Germany, Austria and Denmark. The biggest single collection of Viennese Biedermeier paintings is currently in the Belvedere Palace Museum in Vienna.

Other Art Movements in Germany & Austria

In terms of painting, sculpture and also architecture, the second half of the 18th century in Germany was a crowded affair, with German Baroque art giving way to Rococo, which in turn yielded to Neoclassical architecture, painting and sculpture. The Germanic love of classicism contrasted sharply with the Germanic love of nature, which itself was represented by the Romanticism movement, embodied in the landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) and the Nazarenes (c.1810-50). Although Romanticism endured in part in the form of Symbolism, it was gradually superceded in Germany, from around 1850 onwards, by the Realism movement, whose exponents included Adolph Menzel (1815-1905), Franz von Lenbach (1836-1904), Wilhelm Leibl (1844-1900) and Hans Thoma (1839-1924). It was essentially as an outgrowth of Realism, that German Impressionism took root, thanks to the efforts of Max Liebermann (1847-1935), Max Slevogt (1868-1932), and Lovis Corinth (1858-1925). The Munich Secession (1892), led by Franz von Stuck, the Vienna Secession (1897) under Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and the Berlin Secession (1898) led by Max Liebermann, ushered in the world of modernism.

• For a guide to the evolution of painting in Germany, see: History of Art Timeline.
• For information about 19th century German painting and sculpture, see: Homepage.

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