Art for Interiors: Mid-Century Paintings

by Lisa Doherty 20. March 2018 09:45

People are passionate about the Mid-Century look. It’s iconic, stylish and not at all out of place in a 21st Century interior. For most people, once bitten by the Mid-Century bug, there’s no going back.

As with all great interior trends, art complements décor and furnishings to help finalise and set-off a specific look that is trying to be achieved. This certainly isn’t any different with the Mid-Century style.

Unfortunately, Mid-Century does have a bit of a reputation for having quite unattractive or ‘tacky’ art, but this really isn’t the case. Before you think brown and orange abstract paintings, or the Green Lady, think again. There’s a lot to this look than meets the eye.

What is Mid-Century style?

The Mid-Century period starts around 1933 and comes to an end in 1965, and spans a significant period in world history, which includes the end of the second World War, the start of the Cold War and an obsession with space exploration and the future.

Naturally, this climate impacted and influenced artists and we start to see an increase in Abstract Art and Abstract Expressionism from painters such as Jackson Pollock, Piet Mondrian and Marc Rothko. We also see the birth of the Pop art movement during this time, so there are a lot of styles to choose from!

Hedgehog Spray by LEO BROOKS
Hedgehog Spray by LEO BROOKS Other People's Paintings Only Much Cheaper: No.3 Mondrian. by Juan Sly
Other People's Paintings Only Much Cheaper: No.3 Mondrian. by Juan Sly

This was also an iconic period for furniture designers and architects who responded to the political climate with futuristic and experimental furniture that still hold-up as examples of great design to this day. The Eames chair is probably the most famous, as well as the Tulip chair by Eero Saarinen.

From a high street perspective, this period also saw furniture combine function and design to create a more stylised home. These manufacturers included G-Plan, Parker Knoll and Beautility. Again, today, their furniture has now become highly desired and sought-after.

How to choose a Mid-Century painting

Abstract art and portraiture are key artistic styles for the Mid-Century look. The key colours and tones are muted orange, brown and blue, which may sound a little drab, but they have been brought up to date by today’s Abstract Artists to be more vibrant and vivid.

Geometric shapes were also popular in art during this time, so it’s worth considering this when looking for a painting that best matches the Mid-Century look. This was also a time of texture in art as well with the use of thick, visible brush strokes and also decorative, or three-dimensional wall art.

Mid Century Madness by Lisa Vallo
Mid Century Madness by Lisa Vallo

Through Abstract Expressionism, Jackson Pollock and Marc Rothko tried to capture noise, emotion and even music on canvas. Capturing these in a painting has been a long-held pursuit of artists, who have tried to convey this in so many different ways. Pollock and Rothko did this by dripping paint, soft tones or ombre, and the use of colour.

Sound Waves 04 - Limited Edition Lithograph by M K Anisko
Sound Waves 04 - Limited Edition Lithograph by M K Anisko

There was also a futuristic element to this period, as there was an obsession with robots, aliens and space exploration, all underpinned by the fears of the Cold War. This was also known as the Atomic style, which uses a lot of lines, dots and circles, again, in an Abstract style.

RETRO ROBOT Returns by Tony Lilley
RETRO ROBOT Returns by Tony Lilley Corona  by Robin Gray
Corona by Robin Gray

Mid-Century Portraits

This period saw the home evolve into a place of comfort and style, and not just a functional space. As a result, art became more mainstream and could be bought on the high street - remember Woolworths? - which became very popular and led to some paintings, such as The Green Lady or Mysterious Girl, become iconic statement pieces for this time.

To bring this look up to date, there are portraits you can buy with a Mid-Century twist that reference famous portraits from this period. They do this through the use of tone and colour scheme, as well as a softness with the brush.

These portraits also took on a more global perspective as they portrayed women from other countries and cultures in a more relaxed pose - as opposed to the more formal, European paintings - which was considered ground-breaking, and very popular, at the time.

HER GAZE / 60 CM X 42 CM PORTRAIT PAINTING ON PAPER by Anna Sidi-Yacoub
HER GAZE / 60 CM X 42 CM PORTRAIT PAINTING ON PAPER by Anna Sidi-Yacoub

60's Woman 1 by Victor White
60's Woman 1 by Victor White

The best rooms for Mid-Century

There are a lot of muted tones in the Mid-Century look, so choose a room that is bright and airy and can carry-off the look. Otherwise, a room that has quite poor light is at risk of looking very brown and quite drab.

Furniture-wise, this style uses a lot of wood and leather, so again, it needs a bright space to have impact. A bright conservatory, dining area, living room, study or home office is great for this style. Use sparingly in kitchens or you’re at risk of being overwhelmed by wood. A great alternative, especially for dining furniture, is to go with a round, white table and Tulip chairs, with bright cushions to break things up a bit.

A Mid-Century interior is a lot of fun to design. It’s helped that there is also a lot of art out there - especially on our site - to help you complete the style, create maximum impact and transform your space. Have fun!

Tags:

Art History | Buying Art

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