Art Nouveau architecture, furniture, jewelry, and graphics took their inspiration from the curving shapes and flowing lines of flowers and the female form. Some Art Nouveau adaptations of nature and the human body were literal while others were more abstract. The Art Nouveau style was influenced by creative output of numerous cultures—from Japanese woodblock prints to linear Celtic patterns to elegant Islamic designs.

Though commonly associated with French artists such as Emile Gallé and Czech artists like Alphonse Mucha, the first reference to the term Art Nouveau occurred in the 1880s when a Belgian journal called L’Art Moderne used it to describe the work of 20 painters and sculptors. Les Vingt, as they were known, saw their work as a vehicle for social reform. Their goal was to break down the barriers between so-called high art (painting and sculpture) and the applied arts (craft) to create a unified aesthetic that would be spiritually uplifting to people of all classes.

In Brussels, one of the champions of the movement was an architect and interior designer named Henry van de Velde, who, in 1892, designed his own home, Bloemenwerf, and all the furnishings in it. Even more influential was Victor Horta, whose Hotel Tassel in Brussels was completed in 1894. Horta oversaw every detail, from the vine- and-branch-like wrought-iron railings that wrapped the structure’s curving interior staircases to the stained glass depicting warm and inviting landscapes.

Other European cities and designers seemed in tune, if not always in step aesthetically, with the Belgian Art Nouveau movement. Antoní Gaudí produced building after building of remarkable organic beauty in Barcelona, while Gustav Klimt and other Viennese artists explored the sensual side of Art Nouveau, which was known there as Jugendstil.

French architect and designer Hector Guimard was more directly influenced by Horta’s work, especially in his iron-and-glass entrances to the Paris Metro, created between 1899 and 1905. Guimard also designed numerous custom pieces of furniture for private residences, many of which featured stylized and abstracted flourishes that seem oddly out of context when displayed in museums today but looked perfectly at home in the rooms for which they were designed.

Paris was a home for Art Nouveau before Guimard created his first Metro entrance, thanks in no small part to a German art dealer named Siegfried Bing, who opened L’Art Nouveau gallery in 1895. With interiors by van de Velde, the gallery sold everything from Japanese decorative objects to Rookwood pottery, as well as a range of vases, jewelry, stained glass, and other Art Nouveau pieces by an American named Louis Comfort Tiffany. Bing’s influence was felt at the Exposition Universelle in 1900, when Art Nouveau decorative objects were the stars of the show.

Parisian Art Nouveau had an enormous impact on the city’s graphic artists, too. Alphonse Mucha created flowing, organic imagery that celebrated the female form and celebrities su...

Sometimes Art Nouveau transformed familiar forms into something entirely new. For example, the serpent jewelry that had been so popular in England during the Victorian era was now studded in enamel on bodies of gold. René Lalique, whose glass forms were Art Nouveau icons, turned his attention to dragonflies to create brooches and pins—Lalique’s insects often had female torsos and bejeweled, iridescent wings of enamel and gold.

Despite the presence of sophisticates such as Guimard and Bing and the refined art of Mucha, Chéret, and Lalique, Paris was actually not the center of French Art Nouveau. That claim went to the glassmaking town of Nancy, where Emile Gallé was based. Gallé’s glass objects were rich with opaque metallic lustres in shapes that suggested newly discovered varieties of semi-precious stones.

For Gallé, the base of a vase might take the shape of an onion—like a lot of Art Nouveau artists, he was forever returning to the organic. Some of Gallé’s cameo vases were acid-etched, but his breakthrough was a technique called marqueterie-de-verre, which was like the inlaid, woodworking technique of marquetry, except on glass. In fact, furniture with intricate marquetry was another Gallé trademark—he used some 300 varieties of local fruitwood in his cabinets, tables, trays, and headboards.

Gallé was the leader of the Nancy artists, whose numbers included Louis Majorelle and Victor Prouvé. Majorelle worked mostly in mahogany, and he was more concerned with the sculptural lines and shapes of his pieces than the decorations on their surfaces, which was Prouvé’s chief focus. Eugène Vallin was another Nancy furniture-maker who took his sculptural cues from nature.

When it came to glass, Daum Frères was the other Nancy glass powerhouse. Its blown-and-etched glass vases and shades sometimes had bronze bases created by Majorelle. One of Daum’s best-known accomplishments was the revival of pâte–de-verre, a centuries-old technique in which crushed glass was mixed with water and metal oxides to form a paste that was pressed into a mold and fired.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, Liberty & Co. sold Art Nouveau metalwork to its London customers. Liberty’s pewter Tudric tea services were decorated with relief leaves and flowers, and featured handles wrapped in bamboo cane. Liberty also sold personal adornments such as belt buckles in silver and turquoise, and its Cymric line of silver clocks, vases, and other objects was an effort to bring Art Nouveau to the middle classes.

To the north, in Scotland, Charles Rennie Mackintosh worked more in the Belgian mold, designing houses as well as the furniture that went into them. Unlike his contemporaries, Mackintosh was unafraid of straight lines—his high-backed chairs display none of the waves and curves of the French.

Finally, in the United States, Rookwood alum Artus Van Briggle relocated to Colorado Springs to produce fine examples of Art Nouveau pottery. But the leading champion of Art Nouveau in America was Louis Comfort Tiffany. Some of Tiffany’s pieces, such as his famous wisteria lampshades, were literal interpretations of nature. In other cases, Tiffany mined Egyptian and Middle Eastern styles and motifs for his work, producing everything from iridescent glass scarabs to vases of ancient Cypriot design.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Modernism

Modernism

This archived overview produced by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts offers thumbnail sketches of the design moveme… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Stunning Victorian Art Nouveau 15k Gold Opal RingStunning Victorian Art Nouveau Turquoise And Seed Pearl Gold NecklaceStunning French Victorian Art Nouveau 18ct Gold Pendant, Signed F. RasumnyArt Nouveau Antique Victorian 14k 10k Yellow Gold Turquoise Repousse EarringsFine 19th Century French Art Nouveau 18k Gold Diamond Dragon PendantArt Nouveau James Fenton Hm Sterling Silver Enamel Mother Of Pearl Pendant 1908 Fine Art Nouveau Design Natural Coral 18ct Gold RingVintage Signed Mg Art Nouveau Jewellery Solid Silver & Guilloche Enamel EarringsSuperb Wmf Secessionist, Jugendstil Liqueur Jug: MaidenSecessionist Art Nouveau Inkwell, Likely Carl DeffnerArt Nouveau Pendant Set With Ruby/ Garnet And Eight Pearls With Nice Fancy ChainPair Of Art Nouveau Design Pearl,garnet & Diamond Silver & Gold Drop Earrings Antique Art Nouveau Era Enamel Painted Cranberry Glass Bohemian Dresser Box JarFine Victorian Art Nouveau Style Amethyst And Seed Pearl Pendant And ChainAntique Art Nouveau Gold Filled Flower Lady Locket NecklaceFrench Silver Antique Art Nouveau ChÂtelaine Powder Mirror Compact VanityWonderful Art Nouveau Silver Enamel Pendant By James Fenton 1907Original Art Nouveau Jugendstil Wmf Biscuit Jar & Cut Glass LinerStunning Pair Of Art Nouveau Design Gold, Ruby & Diamond Cluster Drop EarringsArts & Crafts/art Nouveau Silver & Tourmaline Pendant Nagel GermanyLovely Art Nouveau Silver Enamel Celtic Knot Pendant Charles HornerVintage Shell Cameo Filigree Art Nouveau 14k Gold Pin/pendant Lady Diamond S207Fine Pair Of Victorian Art Nouveau Cultured & Seed Pearl 18ct Gold EarringsFine Pair Of Victorian Style Art Nouveau Coral & Seed Pearl Gold Drop EarringsGenuine Art Nouveau Period Door Finger Plate C1904-1905. Rg No 468909Vintage French Art Nouveau Carved Celluloid Mother & Baby Bear Scene Brooch PinLarge Mostly As-is Vtg Antique Victorian Art Nouveau Jewelry & Parts (lot)Art Nouveau Bronze Patina Metal (spelter) Lady Bust(2) Antique French Art Nouveau Lady Goddess Statue Figural L&f Moreau LampSterling Silver - Heavy Art Nouveau (opens!) 105.4g - Cigarette Case Yy4461Antique Art Nouveau Brass Cobra Snake Pocket Watch HolderFine Monumental Bernard Moore Flambe Ceramic Lustre Dragon Vase Art Nouveau DecoAntique Art Nouveau Round Bronze Wall Sculpture Nude Fairies Woodland Nymph YqzArt Nouveau Antique Silver Leaf Carpenters Pencil Top Quality Russian ?Fine Art Nouveau Design 18k Gold Two Stone Amethyst Cross Over Ring, GaroAntique Art Nouveau 10k Gold Yellow Citrine & Seed Pearl Lavalier PendantAntique Art Nouveau Silver King Gillette Vtg Pocket Safety Razor & Ornate CaseAntique Victorian Art Nouveau German Silver Heart Locket Fob Charm Pendant H OldPair Of 19th Century Chinese Carved Amethyst Drop Art Nouveau Design EarringsNice Art Nouveau English Silver Enamelled Cologne Bottle C.1901 Vintage Antique Art Nouveau Swimsuit Girl Lady Pin Up Pocket Knife G.r.c. 1920'sAntique Art Nouveau Turn Teplitz Bohemia Rtsk Vase Amphora Austria 7" 2075Antique Art Nouveau Sterling Silver Enamel Oranges & Flowers BroochVintage 1940 Repousse Sterling Silver Yo-yo Art Nouveau Yoyo Signed L.s.m YqzAntique French Art Nouveau Jugendstil Lady Face Mantel Clock, No ReserveRare Large Art Nouveau Fish Georg Jensen Silver / Agate Cufflinks.2x Antique 1900' Bohemian Uranium Vaseline Glass Vase Kralik Era Jugendstil ArtCharles Horner Art Nouveau Solid Silver Brooch Chester 1907 A/f No Pin SterlingExceptional Pair Of Art Nouveau Wmf Vases With EnamelAntique Gold Filled Art Nouveau Victorian Lion Locket Pendant Monogrammed W&h CoVintage Art Nouveau Nude Girl Ladies Pin Up Pocket Knife Colonial Prov.r.i.Rare Art Nouveau Roseville Persian Jardinière And Pedestal14k Gold Art Nouveau Enameled Purple Seed Pearl Pansy Victorian Small Pendant Bohemian Art Nouveau Glass Lamp Shade 10'' Iridescent Czech Top GlassSuberb Wmf Art Nouveau Vase: Celtic RosesAntique Arts & Crafts Art Nouveau Dragonfly Design Brass Desktop String Box Jar Vintage Shell Cameo Lady Art Nouveau 10k Gold Leaf Bezel Pin Brooch Pendant S214Antique 19th C. Rindskopf Iridescent Glass Vase Bohemian Art Nouveau Jugendstil(2) 19thc Antique Art Nouveau Quadruple Silver Plate Flower Victor CandlesticksAntique Art Nouveau 1910 Teplitz Vase Amphora Pottery Water Lilies

Recent News: Art Nouveau

Source: Google News

ArtsBeat | Protesters Demand Restoration of Mephistopheles Sculpture in St ...
New York Times (blog), August 30th

Feodor Chaliapin, the legendary Russian opera singer known for his mesmerizingly demonic portrayal of Mephistopheles in Gounod's “Faust,” was the inspiration for the bas-relief, the great-grandson of Alexander Lishnevsky, architect of the Art Nouveau ...Read more

The Beautiful Old Signs of Paris Are As Elegant As the City Itself
Slate Magazine (blog), August 30th

Starting in her early 20s, Louise Fili spent years wandering the streets of Paris, photographing the beautiful old signs she saw along the way. She was beginning to discover graphic design at the time, and her documentation of the vernacular signs was...Read more

Y-Art?: Bourbon or Basquiat?
Winston-Salem Journal, August 24th

When you think about the process of buying art, it has a certain mystique. Whether you think of posh New York galleries or elite auction houses like Christie's, there is an air of exclusivity. But as a new generation of consumers is emerging, the face...Read more

Art Nouveau: mischer'traxler reveal Perrier-Jouët collaboration for LDF
wallpaper.com, August 14th

The installation will mark a further step in the year-long collaboration between mischer'traxler and Perrier-Jouët, revealing a new chapter in the champagne house's celebration of Art Nouveau's organic forms and natural expressions. Information...Read more

Disney Princesses Redrawn In Art Nouveau Style
moviepilot.com, August 12th

The British artist focuses on Art Nouveau for most of her work, a decorative style mainly known for its eclectic form and use of curves and intricate details. Think Le Chat Noir or the work of Gustave Klimt. The style has been often used in graphics...Read more

Nouveau riche Chinese driving record art market
The Australian Financial Review, August 11th

This Chinese wucai box, with a Wanli six-character underglaze-blue mark to the base recess, sold for $152,500 including premium at Bonhams on an estimate of $3000 to $5000. by Jane O'Sullivan. The booming market for Chinese art shows no sign of ...Read more

Joe Rosson: Vase with Art Nouveau decoration has overall 'intriguing look'
Knoxville News Sentinel, August 8th

Which is correct does not really matter in this case, because the style of the decoration (a nude woman sitting on the shoulder of the vase and clinging to the neck) is Art Nouveau in feeling and leads me to believe this piece was probably crafted...Read more

Art nouveau's jewels in the crown
The Japan Times, August 4th

Both also favored organic forms, were inspired by fluid curves and the exoticism of the East — and both produced art nouveau works that complemented Bernhardt's own eccentric aesthetic. Yet, contrary to expectations, the Lalique Museum Hakone's...Read more