“An international style of decoration and architecture which developed in the 1880s and 1890s. The name derives from the Maison de l’Art Nouveau, an interior design gallery opened in Paris in 1896, but in fact the movement had different names throughout Europe. In Germany it was known as ‘Jugendstil’, from the magazine Diejugend (Youth) published from 1896; in Italy ‘Stile Liberty’ (after the London store, Liberty Style) or ‘Floreale’; in Spain ‘Modernista’, in Austria ‘Sezessionstil’ and, paradoxically, in France the English term ‘Modern Style’ was often used, emphasizing the English origins of the movement.
“In design Art Nouveau was characterized by writhing plant forms and an opposition to the historicism which had plagued the 19th century. There was a tension implicit throughout the movement between the decorative and the modern which can be seen in the work of individual designers as well as in the chronology of the whole. Its emphasis on decoration and artistic unity links the movement to contemporary Symbolist ideas in art, as seen in the work of the Vienna Secessionists, but the movement was also associated with Arts and Crafts ideas and, as such, Art Nouveau forms a bridge between Morris and Gropius (recognized by Pevsner in his book, Pioneers of the Modern Movement, 1936).
“In Britain the style was exemplified by the architecture of Rennie Mackintosh, and the design work of the Macdonald sisters. The lingering impact of Morris in England slowed down the progress of the new style in design although Mackmurdo, Godwin, Townsend and even Voysey were influenced towards Art Nouveau. It was in illustration that the ideas were most keenly felt, through the new periodicals and presses – the Yellow Book, the Studio, the Savoy, the Hobby Horse – and though the work of Beardsley, Ricketts and Selwyn Image.
“In France, despite Guimard’s famous glass and iron Metro designs, the movement was best expressed in the applied arts, especially the glassware of Lalique (1860-1945) and Galle (1846-1904). In Belgium, the style was promoted through the Societe des Vingts (Les Vingt) established in 1884, and including Ensor as well as the more characteristically Art Nouveau architects Horta and Van de Velde in its members. In Spain the style was concentrated in the eccentric hands of Gaudi in Barcelona. In Vienna, architects like Wagner, Hoffmann and Olbrich, and artists such as Klimt gathered to promote the style through the Secessionist magazine Ver Sacrum. In Germany, the movement split between the decorative tendencies of Otto Eckman (1865-1902) and the Pan magazine, and the streamlined design of Behrens. In America architects like Sullivan and Wright were influenced by European ideas but conceived Art Nouveau in different terms, whilst designers like Tiffany enthusiastically embraced the movement.
An International Style of Art
Art Nouveau (/???rt nu??vo?, ???r/; French: [a? nuvo]) is an international style of art, architecture and applied art, especially the decorative arts, known in different languages by different names: Jugendstil in German, Stile Liberty in Italian, Modernismo catal?n in Spanish, etc. In English it is also known as the Modern Style (not to be confused with Modernism and Modern architecture). The style was most popular between 1890 and 1910. It was a reaction against the academic art, eclecticism and historicism of 19th century architecture and decoration. It was often inspired by natural forms such as the sinuous curves of plants and flowers. Other characteristics of Art Nouveau were a sense of dynamism and movement, often given by asymmetry or whiplash lines, and the use of modern materials, particularly iron, glass, ceramics and later concrete, to create unusual forms and larger open spaces.
One major objective of Art Nouveau was to break down the traditional distinction between fine arts (especially painting and sculpture) and applied arts. It was most widely used in interior design, graphic arts, furniture, glass art, textiles, ceramics, jewelry and metal work. The style responded to leading 19-century theoreticians, such as French architect Eug?ne-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc (18141879) and British art critic John Ruskin (18191900). In Britain, it was influenced by William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement. German architects and designers sought a spiritually uplifting Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”) that would unify the architecture, furnishings, and art in the interior in a common style, to uplift and inspire the residents.
The first Art Nouveau houses and interior decoration appeared in Brussels in the 1890s, in the architecture and interior design of houses designed by Paul Hankar, Henry van de Velde, and especially Victor Horta, whose H?tel Tassel was completed in 1893. It moved quickly to Paris, where it was adapted by Hector Guimard, who saw Horta’s work in Brussels and applied the style for the entrances of the new Paris M?tro. It reached its peak at the 1900 Paris International Exposition, which introduced the Art Nouveau work of artists such as Louis Tiffany. It appeared in graphic arts in the posters of Alphonse Mucha, and the glassware of Ren? Lalique and ?mile Gall?.
From Belgium and France, it spread to the rest of Europe, taking on different names and characteristics in each country (see Naming section below). It often appeared not only in capitals, but also in rapidly growing cities that wanted to establish artistic identities (Turin and Palermo in Italy; Glasgow in Scotland; Munich and Darmstadt in Germany), as well as in centres of independence movements (Helsinki in Finland, then part of the Russian Empire; Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain).
By 1914, and with the beginning of the First World War, Art Nouveau was largely exhausted. In the 1920s, it was replaced as the dominant architectural and decorative art style by Art Deco and then Modernism. The Art Nouveau style began to receive more positive attention from critics in the late 1960s, with a major exhibition of the work of Hector Guimard at the Museum of Modern Art in 1970.
Arts and Crafts movement
From the 1880s until the First World War, western Europe and the United States witnessed the development of Art Nouveau (New Art). Taking inspiration from the unruly aspects of the natural world, Art Nouveau influenced art and architecture especially in the applied arts, graphic work, and illustration. Sinuous lines and whiplash curves were derived, in part, from botanical studies and illustrations of deep-sea organisms such as those by German biologist Ernst Heinrich Haeckel (18341919) in Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms in Nature, 1899). Other publications, including Floriated Ornament (1849) by Gothic Revivalist Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (18121852) and The Grammar of Ornament (1856) by British architect and theorist Owen Jones (18091874), advocated nature as the primary source of inspiration for a generation of artists seeking to break away from past styles. The unfolding of Art Nouveaus flowing line may be understood as a metaphor for the freedom and release sought by its practitioners and admirers from the weight of artistic tradition and critical expectations.
Additionally, the new style was an outgrowth of two nineteenth-century English developments for which design reform (a reaction to prevailing art education, industrialized mass production, and the debasement of historic styles) was a leitmotifthe Arts and Crafts movement and the Aesthetic movement. The former emphasized a return to handcraftsmanship and traditional techniques. The latter promoted a similar credo of art for arts sake that provided the foundation for non-narrative paintings, for instance, Whistlers Nocturnes. It further drew upon elements of Japanese art (japonisme), which flooded Western markets, mainly in the form of prints, after trading rights were established with Japan in the 1860s. Indeed, the gamut of late nineteenth-century artistic trends prior to World War I, including those in painting and the early designs of the Wiener Werkst?tte, may be defined loosely under the rubric of Art Nouveau.
The term art nouveau first appeared in the 1880s in the Belgian journal LArt Moderne to describe the work of Les Vingt, twenty painters and sculptors seeking reform through art. Les Vingt, like much of the artistic community throughout Europe and America, responded to leading nineteenth-century theoreticians such as French Gothic Revival architect Eug?ne-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc (18141879) and British art critic John Ruskin (18191900), who advocated the unity of all the arts, arguing against segregation between the fine arts of painting and sculpture and the so-called lesser decorative arts. Deeply influenced by the socially aware teachings of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement, Art Nouveau designers endeavored to achieve the synthesis of art and craft, and further, the creation of the spiritually uplifting Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) encompassing a variety of media. The successful unification of the fine and applied arts was achieved in many such complete designed environments as Victor Horta and Henry van de Veldes H?tel Tassel and H?tel Van Eetvelde (Brussels, 189395), Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonalds design of the Hill House (Helensburgh, near Glasgow, 19024), and Josef Hoffmann and Gustav Klimts Palais Stoclet dining room (Brussels, 190511) (2000.350; 1994.120; 2000.278.1.9).
Painting styles such as Post-Impressionism and Symbolism (the Nabis) shared close ties with Art Nouveau, and each was practiced by designers who adapted them for the applied arts, architecture, interior designs, furnishings, and patterns. They contributed to an overall expressiveness and the formation of a cohesive style (64.148).
In December 1895, German-born Paris art dealer Siegfried Bing opened a gallery called LArt Nouveau for the contemporary d?cor he exhibited and sold there (1999.398.3). Though Bings gallery is credited with the popularization of the movement and its name, Art Nouveau style reached an international audience through the vibrant graphic arts printed in such periodicals as The Savoy, La Plume, Die Jugend, Dekorative Kunst, The Yellow Book, and The Studio. The Studio featured the bold, Symbolist-inspired linear drawings of Aubrey Beardsley (18721898). Beardsleys flamboyant black and white block print Jai bais? ta bouche lokanaan for Oscar Wildes play Salom? (1894), with its brilliant incorporation of Japanese two-dimensional composition, may be regarded as a highlight of the Aesthetic movement and an early manifestation of Art Nouveau taste in England. Other influential graphic artists included Alphonse Mucha, Jules Ch?ret, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, whose vibrant poster art often expressed the variety of roles of women in Belle ?poque societyfrom femme nouvelle (a new woman who rejected the conventional ideals of femininity, domesticity, and subservience) to demimonde (20.33; 32.88.12). Female figures were often incorporated as fairies or sirens in the jewelry of Ren? Lalique, Georges Fouquet, and Philippe Wolfers (1991.164; 2003.560; 2003.236).
Art Nouveau style was particularly associated with France, where it was called variously Style Jules Verne, Le Style M?tro (after Hector Guimards iron and glass subway entrances), Art belle ?poque, and Art fin de si?cle (49.85.11). In Paris, it captured the imagination of the public at large at the 1900 Exposition Universelle, the last and grandest of a series of fairs organized every eleven years from 1798. Various structures showcased the innovative style, including the Porte Monumentale entrance, an elaborate polychromatic dome with electronic lights designed by Ren? Binet (18661911); the Pavillon Bleu, a restaurant alongside the Pont dIena at the foot of the Eiffel Tower featuring the work of Gustave Serrurier-Bovy (18581910) (1981.512.4); Art Nouveau Bing, a series of six domestic interiors that included Symbolist art (26.228.5); and the pavilion of the Union Centrale des Arts D?coratifs, an organization dedicated to the revival and modernization of the decorative arts as an economic stimulus and expression of national identity that offered an important display of decorative objects (1991.182.2; 26.228.7; 1988.287.1a,b). Sharing elements of the French Rococo (and its nineteenth-century revivals), including stylized motifs derived from nature, fantasy, and Japanese art, the furnishings exhibited were produced in the new taste and yet perpetuated an acclaimed tradition of French craftsmanship. The use of luxury veneers and finely cast gilt mounts in the furniture of leading cabinetmakers Georges de Feure (18681943), Louis Majorelle (18591926), Edward Colonna (18621948), and Eug?ne Gaillard (18621933) indicated the Neo-Rococo influence of Fran?ois Linke (18551946) (26.228.5).