Arts & Humanities, Art History & Restoration; art history; Nordic countries; life reform movement; Ellen Key; 19th Century; 20th Century
In the second half of the 19th century a wave of modernisation, industrialisation and urbanisation swept the Nordic countries, catapulting what had until then been lagging and primarily rural countries into modernity. These major upheavals, however, also plunged the Nordic countries into a profound social and cultural crisis resulting from their consciousness of their own backwardness vis-a-vis the countries on the European continent, as well as the recognition that a nostalgic nationalism recalling a mythical past had become obsolete in the industrial age. In response to this crisis, a life reform movement emerged that was based on Arts and Crafts movements as well as various artistic and literary reform movements and—equally absorbing rural traditions and progressive social ideas—tried to establish a new national everyday culture. In this article, the two key terms coined by Ellen Key, “Festive Customs” (‘festvanor’) and “Everyday Beauty” (‘vardagsskönhet’)—the programmatic core of the Nordic life reform movement—are analysed and illustrated in various typical manifestations. It also examines to what extent the Nordic life reform movement with these two key concepts as its core agenda found expression in arts and crafts, in painting as well as in the architecture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and contributed to the progress of social and cultural renewal.