Midcentury unmodern – how antique furnishings fell out of fashion

From the archives – Robert O’Byrne looks back at a feature published in the October 1945 issue of Apollo: ‘Furnishing with Antique Furniture’ by Lt-Col Sidney G. Goldschmidt

In her recently published study Baroque Between the Wars, Jane Stevenson notes that in England many supporters of the modern movement ‘were curiously reluctant to banish their old furniture’. She quotes interior designer Herman Schrijver, who in Decoration for the Home (1939) lamented that advocates of modernism had difficulty making headway: ‘Never since the struggle to be modern has there been such an interest in the public at large in the antique.’

No doubt many antique dealers today wish this were the case, the market for what is usually dubbed ‘brown furniture’ having substantially diminished. We are inclined to believe the phenomenon of recent origin, but a feature published by Apollo in October 1945 suggests the decline had by then already begun.

‘Furnishing with Antique Furniture’ was written by Lt-Col Sidney G. Goldschmidt. The son of a German-born textile merchant who had settled in Manchester, Goldschmidt more usually wrote on equestrian matters: Skilled HorsemanshipRandom Jottings of a Horseman and An Eye for a Horse were among the books he published. Evidently he also had an abiding interest in, and eye for, antiques: in 1925 Manchester City Art Gallery had displayed a loan collection of his Chinese blue-and-white porcelain.

To read more…