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The 19th Century

At the beginning of the century, Napoleon Bonaparte was leading France toward a new world. Once proclaimed emperor, Napoleon overturned the ancient regime and established new regimes throughout most of the countries of Europe. In order to convey his new order, Napoleon needed a style that could also function as a powerful propaganda tool. He called on designers to create the Empire style based on the ancient Greek and Roman stylistic vocabulary, adding a typically Napoleonic element: a fondness for all things Egyptian. This was the beginning of the Empire style, which had a profound influence throughout several European countries for nearly fifty years. The most striking characteristic of the nineteenth century was the triumph of a bourgeois style throghout all of Europe, with the Restoration and Louis-Philippe styles in France and the Biedermeier style in Germany and Austria. The Universal Exhibitions, held regularly from 1851 on, stimulated exchanges between designers and diverse countries and were influential in the appearance of the so-called eclectic or historicist fin-de-siecle style. The succession of exaggerated forms led to the Secession movement in Austria. This movement provided the stimulus for the Art Nouveau style, the first self-proclaimed pan-European movement which was as innovative as were the Gothic, Renaissance and Rococo styles in their own times.