The bourgeoisie eccentricities and play on popular pastimes embodied in the work of the German artist Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885) remain one of my favorite manifestations of the Romantic critique of daily life in the 19th century.
At once a commentary on all the things people will get into and pride themselves on when their material means increase, while at the same time exhibiting a childish fondness for those very same absurdities, it is hard for me to say if Spitzweg was ultimately laughing at or with his subject matter.
Thought when it comes to the matter, I think I enjoy this ambiguity the most. Whether he is depicting the huddled and seemingly lethargic poet in the above painting, or the bedazzled mineralogist in the grotto shown below, there is a strange admixture of absurd fantasy and gritty realism in these works.
Spitzweg is worth checking out. Most of his paintings are available on Wikipedia and he provides an unparalleled look into the paradoxes of life during the 19th century.