So when did the fifties become ‘mid-century’?

Whilst the early twentieth century is clearly associated with Art Nouveau and the inter-war period with Art Deco, the distinctive designs from the post-war period have lacked a similar identity. This is about to change as the term ‘mid-century’ gains wider currency. Although the century is not obvious, the first of a 2 part article in this week’s ‘Antiques Trade Gazette’ (30th August) defines ‘mid-century’ as ‘furniture and furnishings created in the aftermath of the Second World War and on into the 1950s or early ‘60s’ (page 6).

This is exactly where places itself capturing the ‘new look for the post-War era, a break from both the austerity of the wartime economy and the luxury and streamlining of the Art Deco movement’. The article makes clear the strong European and international design influences, including Scandinavia for furniture, Italy for ceramics and France for fabrics, but also recognises a distinctive British output, not least from the 1951 ‘Festival of Britain’.

‘Mid-century’ is not just a convenient catch-all, similar designs and motifs can be traced across, for example, Scandinavian and Dutch ceramics, and fabrics from France and the United States. In contrast, a ‘new realism’ in British art offered a break from the picturesque which dominated until the Second World War. Our collection offers examples reflecting both European and British traditions, where ‘mid-century’ is brought to life.