Typical Biedermeier poets are Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Adelbert von Chamisso, Eduard Mörike, and Wilhelm Müller, the last two of which have well-known musical settings by Hugo Wolf and Franz Schubert respectively.
Biedermeier can be identified with two trends in early nineteenth-century German history.
The first trend is growing urbanization and industrialization leading to a new urban middle class, and with it a new kind of audience. The early Lieder of Schubert, which could be performed at the piano without substantial musical training, illustrate the broadened reach of art in this period. Further, Biedermeier writers were themselves mainly middle-class, as opposed to the Romantics, who were mainly drawn from the nobility.
The second trend is the growing political oppression following the end of the Napoleonic Wars prompting people to concentrate on the domestic and (at least in public) the non-political. Due to the strict publication rules and censorship, writers primarily concerned themselves with non-political subjects, like historical fiction and country life. Political discussion was usually confined to the home, in the presence of close friends. This atmosphere changed by the time of the revolutions in Europe in 1848.
The Biedermeier style was a simplified interpretation of the influential French Empire Style of Napoleon I. He introduced the romance of ancient Roman Empire styles, adapting these to modern early 19th century households. Biedermeier furniture grew out of the French Empire Period, but used locally available materials such as cherry, ash and oak woods rather than the expensive timbers such as fully imported mahogany. Whilst this timber was available near trading ports such as Antwerp, Hamburg and Stockholm, it was taxed heavily every time it passed through another principality. This made mahogany very expensive to use and much local cherry and pearwood was stained to imitate the more expensive timbers. Stylistically, the furniture was simple and elegant. Its construction utilised the ideal of truth through material, something that later influenced the Bauhaus and Art Deco periods.
Many unique designs were created in Vienna. This is because the young apprentice was examined on his use of material, construction, originality of design, and quality of cabinet work, before being admitted to the league of approved master cabinetmakers. Furniture from the earier period (1815-1830) was the most severe and neoclassical in inspiration. It also supplied the most fantastic forms which the second half of the period (1830-1848) lacked, being influenced by the many style publications from England. Biedermeier furniture was the first style in the world that emminated from the growing middle class. It preceded Victoriana and influenced mainly Germanic-speaking countries. In Sweden, Marshal Bernadotte, whom Napoleon appointed as ambassador to Sweden to sideline his ambitions, abandoned his support for Napoleon in a shrewed political move. Later, after being adopted by the last Vasa king of Sweden who was childless, he became Sweden's new king Karl Johan. The Swedish Karl Johan style, similar to Biedermeier, retained its elegant and blatant Napoleonic style throughout the 19th century.
Biedermeier furniture and lifestyle was a focus on exhibitions at the Vienna applied arts museum in 1896. The many visitors to this exhibition were so influenced by this fantasy style and its elegance that a new resurgance or revival period became popular amongst European cabinetmakers. This revival period lasted up until the Art Deco style was taken up. Biedermeier also influenced the various Bauhaus styles through their truth in material philosophy.
The original Biedermeier period changed with the political unrests of 1845-1848 (its end date). With the revolutions in European historicism, furniture of the later years of the period took on a distinct Wilhelminian or Victorian style.