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Australia : Antiques and Decorative Arts

Australia’s contribution to the trade of decorative arts and objects from the 18th to the 20th century reflects a fascinating journey of artistic development and cultural exchange.

### 18th and 19th Centuries

In the early 19th century, a distinctive Australian style in furniture making emerged, characterized by boldness and simplicity, diverging from its British counterparts which were often adorned with intricate details like gilt mounts, fine carving, and inlays. The discovery of gold in 1851 significantly influenced the decorative arts in Australia. There was an increased demand for large-scale, sometimes extravagant, presentation silver, often flaunting a distinctly Australian nature, incorporating emu eggs and local flora and fauna motifs. This period in Australian silversmithing is notable for its eclectic taste and conservative style, as well as the influence of the exotic, typical of decorative art of that era globally.

By the late 19th century, the influence of movements like Impressionism and Symbolism became evident in Australian art. These movements brought about a shift in artistic focus, emphasizing the fleeting effects of light and color, and using visual elements to evoke deeper, subconscious human experiences.

### 20th Century

In the 20th century, figures like Marion Best, an interior decorator and patron, played a pivotal role in promoting Australian and international design through her Sydney shop and work. Her influence in furniture and domestic object design was significant, marked by a love of brilliant color and striking individuality.

Post-World War II, there was a renewed interest in the decorative arts in Australia, aligned with global trends. The economic changes resulting from the mineral boom of the 1960s further exaggerated this development. This period also saw the establishment of state crafts associations and the Crafts Council of Australia, which were instrumental in promoting and supporting the decorative arts.

The National Gallery of Victoria, for instance, played a significant role in advocating for Australian ceramics and contemporary decorative arts, highlighting the growing national and international appreciation for Australian craft and design.

Overall, Australia’s journey in the decorative arts and objects sector from the 18th to the 20th century showcases a rich blend of indigenous and colonial influences, evolving styles, and a growing appreciation for both traditional and contemporary designs.

Sources:
– National Gallery of Australia (ngv.vic.gov.au)
– 19th Century (19thcentury.us)
– National Gallery of Australia (nga.gov.au)

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