Industrial Revolution Essay

In times of social and political change, art serves not only as a source of emotional release but also as a tool of self-expression. Through analysing the characteristics and stylistic elements behind a particular art genre, we can observe the corresponding era’s social political environment. As the bed rock of modern art movements, the Industrial Revolution was in particular, a result of the agricultural revolution and pursuit of mechanisation and automation as technology advances.

The Industrial revolution was preceded by the Baroque, Rococo, and Neo-classicism. The main difference between all three precedent art movements and the industrial revolution is that industrial designs focus more on function and practicality whereas their predecessors focus more on aesthetics. The Baroque style was named after the French word denoting extravagance and heavy ornamentation. It was originally a style developed for King Louis IV and his royal court. Also known as King Louis XV style, the Baroque style is characterised by elaborate designs, gold details, and an overall luxurious vibe. The Baroque later transitioned into the Rococo style, also known as the Late Baroque. Originated in Paris in the early 18th century, Rococo is essentially the Baroque style taking on the lighter side of life. Delicate and creamy colors such as light pastels, ivory white, and gold replaced rich Baroque colors. Mirrors took place of precious metals such as gold to enhance the sense of open space. Soft and natural curves and irregular designs replaced rigid symmetry. Though still heavily decorated and aesthetic-oriented, Rococo appears less extravagant and livelier as compared to its predecessor. With its emphasis on asymmetry, ornamentation, and bright colors, Rococo was rejected by the later Neo Classicism movement. Also known as classical revival, Neo classicism is characterized by straight lines, simple form, minimal colors, and adherence to classical values and techniques. We can see that art movements are essentially reactions towards earlier styles, efforts to constantly create new content or revive the classics.

The Industrial revolution occurred in Britain from 1760 to 1840. It was a period of technological advancement powered by new sources of energy such as coal and steam. Several factors that led to this movement include the agricultural revolution, availability of mineral resources, colonialism, and development of new transportation systems. Prior to this, a period known as the agricultural revolution completely revolutionized people’s lifestyles. Machinery replaced human labor and crop rotation and scientific breeding replaced previous less efficient farming methods. As a result, food production increased and costs lowered, enabling households to have a surplus of savings. Demand for manufactured goods increased and with the population boom, human labor supply increased, creating a ready pool of workers willing to work for factories. The building of iron railroad tracks allowed goods and people to get around the country, meaning workers could move from the agricultural south to the industrial north. Abundant coal allowed factories to operate and the nation’s colonial culture created a ready supply of consumers overseas. Every single factor was in a way paving road for the industrial revolution to occur. So what exactly happened during the Industrial revolution? How have people’s lifestyle changed? And how exactly did those changes reflect on designs during the time?

During the Industrial Revolution, inventions like the Spinning Jenny, the Power Loom, and the Steam Engine changed the way things work completely. The Spinning Jenny, invented in 1764 by James Hargreaves, significantly reduced the amount of work required to produce cloth. The power loom by Edmund Cartwright in 1785, combined threads to make cloth and initiated the process of textile weaving. During the same year, James Watt created what was known as the Steam Engine, a machine that basically made the whole industrial revolution possible. The Steam engine runs primarily on coal, allowing new energy sources to be put to use in a much more efficient way. Alongside with new inventions, factory systems and assembly lines replaced old production methods and goods became mass produced. An example of how art and design is affected is the Chair No.14, designed by Michael Thonet. Unlike the Rococo and Baroque chairs, industrial chairs focused more on simplicity and function. The chair didn’t have any decorations at all, rather just a simple wood colored round chair. However, this doesn’t mean that industrial designs don’t look nice, but rather they’ve just become more simple and straight forward, embracing the ideal that “less is more.”

As previously mentioned, the Industrial revolution served as the bed rock for modern art movements. The influence of industrial designs can still be found within many modern day designs, for instance like the furniture at Ikea. By observing modern day designs, we can see the influence of art movements before them. History in essence is never a series of isolated events but rather, a series of events that intertwine, reflect, and affect one another.



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