The research group The Inside Story: Art, Interior and Architecture 1750-1950 (ThIS), launched in 2016 by Marjan Sterckx, investigates the role and place of art within the context of the interior and of architecture, with a focus on the period between ca. 1750 and ca. 1950, and on the history of interiors, the decorative arts, and arts and the decorative. It is an official collaborative research group between Ghent University (UGent) and the Free University of Brussels (VUB), between departments of Art History and of Architectural Engineering.
Since the eighteenth century, the term ‘interior’ has been used to describe the inside of buildings as well as their representation in the arts. In the long nineteenth century, in which the public and private spaces had their own separate (gender) identities, the place of artworks and ‘objets d’art’ within the inhabited interior and within architecture underwent dramatic changes. Interior design and the decorative arts, and approaches to these subjects, have been greatly influenced by technological advances and the increasing emphasis on privacy and individuality, amongst other things. In line with the architectural interiority of the bourgeois space, a sense of psychological interiority and a culture of domesticity also came to the fore, not least through the visual arts.
Geographically, ThIS focuses on Belgium, albeit in an international context. International research into the history of interior design and the decorative arts, and the theories related to these disciplines, have grown exponentially since the 1990s. For Belgium, which played an important role in the development of the fine and decorative arts between ca. 1750 and 1950, and particularly during the Belle Epoque, there is still a great deal of research potential. This group’s research departs from the artwork/ art object and its place within architecture and historic interiors, yet inspired by the challenges of present-day living, new technologies, and by interdisciplinary research methods.
In order to encourage research into art as related to design, interiors and architecture of the period 1750-1950 in Belgium and abroad, The Inside Story: Art, Interior Design and Architecture organises an annual colloquium in Ghent, entitled Studiedag Historisch Interieur en Design, that brings together researchers from various disciplines and institutions, including many heritage professionals. Within heritage policy, the historic interior is still underexposed in Belgium: often unknown and inaccessible and thus vulnerable. The forementioned Studiedag can play an important role in the valorisation of historical interiors. Through knowledge and expertise exchange, impetus can be given to better protection and preservation of exceptional interiors.
ThIS’ researchers participate, both individually and jointly, in related conferences and exhibitions, a number of which they also (co-)organise, some in collaboration with ESNA (European Society of Nineteenth-Century Art). The members organise an on-going research seminar for their PhD students, and collaborate on publications and some courses that address the aforementioned topics. They also cooperate with colleagues from other scientific departments and institutions, universities as well as museums.
ThIS will focus on the following aspects, grouped into three clusters:
Fine arts and/in interiors and architecture
- Fine arts in/and architecture, e.g.: ornamental sculpture; monumental painting; monumental sculpture;...
- The artistic representation of the interior
- The (artistic) presentation of art in the interior; art collections
- Artists’ studios and homes (in collaboration with ULB – Prof. Dr. T. Brogniez, Dr. L Debroux, prof. dr. J. le Maire); Studio practices
Decorative arts & design, arts & the decorative
- The (artistic) decoration of the interior
- Sculpture, painting and the decorative; The decorative arts at (world) exhibitions
- Interiors, decorative arts, and gender; Textile and fashion history
- The interaction between craft and technology/industry, between design and commerce
- Interiors and architecture, the interior as palimpsest
- New technology and its impact upon the interior
- Material culture in the domestic context, historical domesticity (in collaboration with UA, Urban History - Prof. Dr I. Van Damme).
- Phenomenology, semiotics and the psychology of the interior (in collaboration with UH, Architecture and Art – Dr V. Ionescu)
Keywords: art, architecture, interior design, historic interiors, design, applied arts, long 19th century, interwar period, gender, space