Secessionist. That's the word of the day. Well, today, anyway.
Because I saw a picture on Instagram of an item of British china and it had been given a hashtag* 'Secessionist'.
My little cogs whirred and I thought
"That's not right", and "isn't secession to do with Austria?" and there, dear reader, my mental processes were exhausted by reaching so deep into inconsequence that reside in what passes for a brain.
With the help of coffee, I recovered and thought anew,
"Aha. With a bit of research there could be a blog post in this".
So let's to it, pell mell: what does Secessionist mean?
Secessionists are people who break away from the established, the existing and/or the accepted. So in art and antiques it applies to a group who break away from a currently accepted school, academy or fashion. The best known, and the term in which I have previously seen the word used, was the Austrian or Vienna secessionists who broke away from the Austrian School of Art in 1897. Perhaps the most famous of this group was Gustav Klimt.
There have been previous and subsequent secessionists: I would imagine the earlier (late 1840's) Pre-Raphaelites, who rejected the 'chocolate box' style of the Royal Academy and Joshua Reynolds style for painting 'from life' could be called a secessionist group. History is littered with those who break away: politics, art, religion and so on and, indeed on and on. But the term in antiques has a very specific location and time frame.
It refers to specific groups of artists in Austria and Germany who broke away from their official academies to pursue different aims and to mount their own exhibitions. The Vienna group I refer to above were stimulated by the first secession in Munich in c.1892, and after them came the Berlin Group in 1899, and then Cologne in 1909. This is what the adopted, and therefore understood, definition applies to, and as you can see; it is quite narrow.
So what's my point? Well may you ask. it is this; lazy labelling by dealers who can't be bothered to research terms they don't know well, and who bandy terms around because they think it makes them look good, do us all a disservice. And while I can't bear the cliques and snobby superiority of the old days, I do bemoan this lazy (unprofessional) dealing that diminishes the trade as a whole. Using big words you barely understand is not the way to impress anyone, let alone a potential buyer. Think about it for a moment. If anyone is using the word secessionist as a search term, they already know what it means. They have a tighter grasp on it than you may have, so when they find you misusing it, what do they think? And how, pray, are you going to explain it to someone who wants to know what you mean by it on your label. It does not refer to a period. It refers to something quite specific.
Other terms suffer from this lazy abuse too: Aesthetic, Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and those are only the A's! They all have fairly specific and accepted meanings and should really be used only with that interpretation in mind. It is after all true; you can't be wrong by being right.
Accuracy matters to us all. There's a world of difference between original paint and painted original. Words are important. They convey meaning. Punctuation+ does too. I think we dealers should all try to be more careful and more accurate how we use them: how else can the buying public trust what we say? And how long does it take to look a word up on the Googler? Seconds, a few minutes at most. To get it right? Not a high price to pay.
*Octothorp: correct word for it. I kid you not.
+Big difference: Your crap & You're crap.