Feeling Nostalgic: Kitsch Art & Décor

Feeling nostalgic: Kitsche

Kitsch. We have all heard the word and probably used it, but what does it really mean?

When kitsch was used for the first time in the art markets of Munich in the 1860s it was used to describe the popular, inexpensive and marketable paintings and sketches that were sold to tourists. The first mention in print was also in Germany in 1925 and was employed to mean “not fine art, but something that doesn’t take itself too seriously.” A well-known example is the “Cat in a Ruff” a 19th century painting by an unknown artist, which was located prominently on the mantle in Mark Twain’s library. Samuel Clemens would play a game with his daughters, all of them creating stories using the items on the mantle beginning with the “Cat in a Ruff.” In 1998 Kitsch became the name of a classic painters’ movement, where the style was described as “romantic with emotionally charged imagery.”

Originally used as a description of “lowbrow” art and as an insult, kitsch was a put down to any popular art. Now it is used – according to the urban dictionary – to describe an art movement, a lifestyle, anything overdone, sentimental, folksy or charming, and anything “pleasingly distasteful.”

I have seen it employed to describe countless things: from wearing my grandmother’s necklace, a cottage shaped teapot, anything from the 1950s, old films, books and TV shows all can be considered kitsch.

What comes to mind when I think of kitsch, is anything made of rhinestones, pink flamingos in the front yard, hula dancers on the dashboard and anything having to do with the late, great singer/actress Carmen Miranda who wore fruit in her headdress while she performed.

As a movement propelled by popular culture and widespread interests, numerous items have been elevated to the kitsch level. For example if you are interested in outer space, you might collect items that have to do with the Apollo moon missions and would love to add Design Toscano’s kitschy Astronaut at Ease Lighted Sculpture (KY7507) to shed some light on the subject.

If you’re a fan of 1950s Sci-Fi B movies, or a collector of futuristic robots, take a look at our set of two Retro Robot Statues (JQ99068) and don’t take off without a Retro Rocket Ship Cast Iron Bottle Opener (SP934) great to help any party blast off or as an out-of-this-world gift to your host or hostess.

When kitsch goes retro it becomes a fun and vintage look; for example: our Retro Rosie Diner Dame Serving Table Statue (EU9342) who will always be ready with a cold drink or, found only at Design Toscano, our Retro 1950s Cold Drink Soda Pop Machine Key Cabinet (SY5842) as a novelty to hold your roadster keys.

Petroliana, which has that kitschy feel, is the collection of anything related to gas stations or the petroleum industry, especially from the 1930s and 1940s. It has become a huge, growing movement helping to decorate man caves and garages everywhere. You can create a space that is infused with positive energy and drive, Design Toscano offers various options for enthusiasts: the decorative over seventy inch tall Service Station Vintage Gas Pump Metal Sculpture (FU79361), the Route 66 Gas Pump Floor Lamp and Collectible Cabinet (SY5804) is everything you could want – light and storage – wrapped up in one historic icon, and the unique Retro Gasoline Pump Table Lamp (PD60310) will light your route home in the dark.

The beauty of kitsch is that so many of us have a feeling of nostalgia and affection for items we recall from our friends or grandparents homes. My great aunt kept a pair of ceramic bobble headed men on her coffee table, and now I own the set of three, See, Hear, and Speak No Evil Garden Gnome Metal Bobblehead Statues (NA75077) by artist Alison Holow that is brightening up my yard.

There are whole groups devoted to collecting the souvenirs sold in roadside and airport gift shops that were brought home to friends and loved ones from vacation trips. “Kitschy” has become an affectionate term and a fun way to travel back in time, as well as rediscover your playfulness. Anything humorous and appealing to collectors can be considered as kitschy. And these are only a few of the kitschy items that can be found at Design Toscano!

In short, kitsch is so bad it’s cool!

Posted by Sue Mell

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