Religion and Spirituality
Science and Technology
Art, Literature and Music
Daily Life
Key Personalities

Painting, Sculpture and the Graphic Arts

The Edwardian era saw a variety of artistic movements such as Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism and Futurism; and toward the end of the period, Dadaism, De Stijl and Constructivism. However, perhaps the most popular, at least in mainstream America and Europe, was Art Nouveau. This new style of design in architecture, furniture, clothing, commercial art, and household articles entered the scene at the turn of the century, propelled by the enterprising spirit of Siegfried Bing, an elusive and brilliant connoisseur in Paris. The style was characterized by patterns and motifs inspired by nature and expressed in exuberant colors, forms, and lines. Artists whose names became synonymous with the style include the American Louis C. Tiffany, renowned for his stained glass windows and Favrile glass; the Austrian Gustav Klimt, recognized for his passionate, colorful paintings (for example, The Kiss, pictured at left); the French Toulouse-Lautrec, famed for his posters of the demimonde, the Café-Concerts and Montmartre; Belgian Victor Horta, French Alphonse Mucha and Hector Guimard, celebrated for their architechtural genius displayed in their Metro stations; and Spanish Antonio Gaudi, known for his popular illustrations. Art Nouveau appealed especially to the enlightened elite and nouveau riches of the Edwardian era, whose tastes, uninhibited by tradition, encouraged designers to stylistic excesses. However, these patrons soon tired of the "new art", and the style was considered out of fashion and tacky before the first World War.

Literature and Poetry

Literature of the Edwardian era reflected the restless ambivalence of the new millenium. Playwright George Bernard Shaw transformed Edwardian theatre into an arena for debate over the issues of his time: the question of political organization, the morality of armaments and war, the function of class and professions, the validity of the family and marriage, and the challenge of female emancipation. E.M. Forster, who penned such novels as Howard's End and A Room With a View, explored difficult themes such as the insensitivity, repression, and philistinism of the English middle classes. H.G. Wells, on the other hand, expressed the optimistic conviction of his time that science and technology would transform the world in the new century. Writers such as Thomas Hardy and Rudyard Kipling, who had established their reputations during the Victorian era, conveyed reservations about the future and instead sought to revive the literary forms as the ballad, narrative poem, satire, fantasy, and essay, which they believed would preserve traditional sentiments and perceptions.

The Edwardian era birthed a number of literary and poetic movements such as Imagism, Futurism, and the Lost Generation. Imagism describes a movement in American and English poetry beginning in 1910 that borrowed from haiku and free verse and is exemplified in the poems of Ezra Pound. Birthed in Europe, Futurism advocated the abandonment of conventional syntax and the uninhibited and often bizarre use of images drawn from the age of technology. Finally, the Lost Generation refers to expatriate American writers, including Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who came into prominence after the first World War and whose work reflected a deep disillusionment with their society.


At the dawn of the century, Ragtime music popularized by Scott Joplin became the rage in North America. Ragtime is a style of lively, syncopated music filled with counterpoint and harmonic contrasts. Typically, the bass notes establish the beat and the the melodic notes fall unexpectedly on and off beat, creating an energetic and original sound. The musical style has its roots in African American traditions on Southern plantations, such as "Coon songs" and "Cakewalks" which were often accompanied by vibrant music reminscent of African dances. Even before the Edwardian era, ragtime had begun to sweep across the Mississippi Valley in the late 1890s, predominantly driven by African American pianists such as Theodore Northrup and W.H. Krell. Joplin, known affectionately as the "King of Ragtime", borrowed from the classic styles of composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Louis Moreau Gottschalk to create a renowned musical tradition that reached its height of popularity in the late 1910s. Joplin's most popular rags are titled "The Entertainer" and "The Maple Leaf Rag."