The term Historicism refers to a period in art history that had strong tendencies of reversion to previous epochs, as it had already been the case during Renaissance and its reception of the ancient world. In a more narrow sense, Historicism is a sort of pluralism of styles that followed Biedermeier in the second half of the 19th century, using elements from previous eras in form of so-called neo-styles (among them Neo-Rococo, Neo-Gothic, Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Baroque). If elements from several periods are employed on one building, it is generally regarded as eclectic.
At first Historicism had a negative connotation, the deliberate imitation of another style was seen as a lack of creativity, however, today the phenomenon is seen in the light of its achievements in terms of an authentic composition, a national historic conscience and a strong interest in the Christian Middle Ages in Germany, and therefore interpreted as an independent style.
Architecture is the main field of Historicism, choosing older styles according to the building's function: Gothic elements were used for residential buildings, cultural institutions such as museums and theatres were build in the style of Neo-Renaissance; a representative Neo-Baroque was chosen for hotels and upper class housing. A Historicism of its own kind developed in England with the upcoming Victorian Style, Neo-Gothic (Gothic Revival) had already become fashionable in the middle of the 18th century.
Painters preferred historical scenes, their style geared at the Old Masters. The Nazarenes had already shown tendencies of Historicism, using Gothic and Renaissance as sources of inspiration. The Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood is also a group of its own, reverting to Italian painting from the 14th and 15th century, picking up Nazarene art as well. Works by artists of the Munich school of painting, such as Franz von Defregger, Wilhelm von Diez, Franz von Lenbach and Carl Theodor von Piloty, as well as works by the 'Deutschrömer' (German Romans), among them Arnold Böcklin, Anselm Feuerbach and Hans von Marées, can also be regarded as examples of Historicism.
The Old German style, blending various styles, and the Makart style are worthwhile mentioning in the field of handicrafts.