16 Jan the first bohemiansReading Time: 4 minutes
-from the french word bohême.
a person with artistic or literary interests who disregards conventional standards of behavior.
bohemia itself is a place. a region of the czech republic home to a nomadic group of people, who similarly to the gypsies lived a wild nomadic life with a passion for art music and adventure. french authors took the term to describe people with this sort of lifestyle and in the early 1800’s the french writer muger presented a play titled “la vie de boheme” using the term to define the impoverished creatives who lived in paris in a neighborhood that began to be metaphorically referred to as bohemia. but I first discovered the term in a lecture by virginia nicholson where she talks about her childhood experience, living in a colorfully creative community in the english countryside that began to be know as the bloomsbury bohemians.
“this word ‘boheme’ is self-explanatory. bohemia possesses nothing, yet contrives to exist on that nothing” -honore de balzac
the bohemians of the early 1900’s were artists, poets and writers who discarded the stuffy victorian way of living in favor of a more creative lifestyle. the thing I found most inspiring about these original bohemians is that they wove creatively into their daily lives. they lived in the countryside, close to nature and their lifestyle was simple and their free-time dedicated to reading, writing, art, and music. the lovely part is that due to this creativity there are so many records left of their existence. paintings and letters and plays and all of it inspired by the creativity of their day to day lives.
“everything was going to be new, everything was going to be different, everything was on trial” -virginia woolf
think this is where the truth is to be found: in the questioning of everything.
the bohemians were people who questioned everything. they lived intentionally and they sought out the reasons for their actions.
I started this blog to talk about creativity. to write about inspiration and ideas that have inspired me and bohemianism seemed like the right place to start.
their clothing was a form of self-expression. the sweeping straw hats, and long flowing dresses. their comfortable baggy pants and oriental silk jackets. and there was a sense of personal style and self expression that completely lacking in victorian culture.
it is true that there are people who do not follow norms in every time period the part that stood out to me is how differently modern bohemianism is perceived. nowadays bohemian clothing, although beautiful is just as generic and predictable as any other trend; and although it has grown out of bohemian style I can’t help thinking it is generally misunderstood and has very little to do with the original bohemians.
they even cooked creatively. as recorded in a letter from the artist dora carrington. describing her recent dinner party, the grapefruit salad, and almond risotto. things that at the time no one was eating or even considering putting together.
the bohemians lived simply, and sometimes in utter poverty, but they also had an appreciation for their possessions and an eye for beauty. this is so clearly pictured in Virginia’s childhood home in bloomsbury. the design is the paradox of the put together victorian houses of their period, which often appeared more like sets than livable spaces. the houses of the bohemians were comfortable and cozy. as virginia puts it there was an ‘individualized muddle’ and there were filled with light and art and handpicked furniture.
as someone who has always loved design and is beginning a four-year program on the subject, I was fascinated by the bohemian sense of aesthetics. it seems so much of modern design, ethnicity, creativity, and livability, are all based on the ideas of bohemians. these ideas are the source of so many parts of modern lifestyle and we owe them for the freedoms that we experience today.
for more practical take on the subject check out mu blog post how to adopt a bohemian lifestyle.
this was the post I wrote originally, inspired by the creative lifestyle of this colorful group of people; but I wanted to create something that would add value to your life so the second post is a more direct guide on how to live like a bohemian. I would love to hear your thoughts on the posts and know what interested you or inspired you about the bohemians.