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Art Nouveau

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Alphonse Mucha Gallery Gustav Klimt Paintings   Spindler Marquetry


Art Nouveau Key Concepts

From the second half of the 19th century to the first World War

Consequence of the Industrial revolution and Japanese Art

Use of Decoration

Inspiration from Nature (Plants, insects)

Use of symbolism

"New Art", that is against conformism and the old school

Europe and USA

Crafts and Arts, objects and figurative arts

Non uniform national movements


Non-classicism, but "new" art and art as a way to improve society


Art Nouveau is partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution. (The industrial revolution brought also many new and useful things and innovations which were used from many artists, and from which the movementdirectly or indirectly profited - e.g. lithography, photography, electricity, new colors, new materials). It was a reaction to the "old" , school in the arts gravitating around classicism and hitorical scenes. Agains the style "empire", the various "Louis XIV", Louis "XV" styles in vogue and trying to mimic the aristrocratic world which did not exist anymore after the French revolution.

Gustav Klimt is one of the most famous artists of this period. Writing about him and looking at his works, I gradually moved my interests towards this important, very important,actually, art movement.

Why very important? Because in my opinion it is a threshold between the past and the present, the old and the "modern".

ukyio-e a peonyThere wouldn't be any "design" today without this movement which sprung up in England first and gradually expanded all over the world between 1890 and 1910. Thanks to a new approach of looking at things. The Pre-Raphaelites, the Japanese art and Symbolism were the forerunners of this vast movement.

Through the newly acquired printing techniques and innovations, reproductions of the Japanese prints became popular. The " Ukiyo-e" (pictures of the floating world; Edo period - originally erotic and depicting the Yoshiwara district of Edo city, then more towards interior scenes and landscapes) opened the western artists' eyes to new explorations.

It begun in the lates 1850s.

In 1856 is the first copy of a Japonese drawing by the artist Katsushika Hokusai done by a French artist, Félix Bracquemond. (Sidenote: van Gogh, Manet, Degas,Whistler, Renoir, Pissaro, Klimt were all influenced by Japanese art). Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) was also very influential to Western art.

As a consequences, female bodies would be drawn from now on with an elegant use of the line. Body shapes would be elongated with planned, sophisticated poses and sharp angles. All typical Art Nouveau traits (see my Alphonse Mucha gallery for instance).


Mucha Nouveau La Trappistine Poster
Mucha Nouveau La Trappistine Poster
Mucha, Alphonse
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Mucha, Alphonse
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Moreover, Art Nouveau wanted to combine and join the old materials with the new ones. So wood, iron and stones were mixed with steel and glass.

The Art and Crafts movement which started with John Ruskin ideas and Williams Morris creativity - a pre-raphaelite himself this latter one- (both English by the way, and not casually, being the industrial revolution mainly a British "affair") but also from the brilliant genius of Philippe Webb and Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (architects), Walter Crane (illlustrator) and then spread all over the world (the first time a movement touched the USA incidentally), passing through different denominations - such as Jugendstil in the German area and of course as "Nouveau Art" (="new art") more generally but also "Mucha-style" in Paris, Modern Style in the USA, "stile liberty" in Italy, - wanted to romantically give back to humanity its most important values: creativity, beauty, functionality, invention...and social justice (Leo Tolstoy latest writings were also influential).

Curiosly, apart from Glasgow, Art Nouveau did not really take place in England in such an extent as on the Continent.

Following are different contemporary denomination of this "New Art" taking place everywhere. From the long list, you can see that when the movement was in full swing, it was difficult to catch one whole carachteristic for it and there was rather the tendency to define it by some of its components.


Modern Style  
Arte Jover  
Arte Modernista  
Paling Stijl  
Style 1900  
Style Nouille  
Belgoscher Bandwurm  
Style Coup de Fouet  
Style Metro  
Style des Vingts  
Veldeshe Stil  
Style Horta  
Stil Van der Welde  
Style Guimard  
Style Morris  
Style Mucha  
Style Jules Verne  
Glasgow Style  
Gereitzer Regerwurm  
Reudeutsche Kunst  
Yachting Style  
Studio Style  

The movement was at its highest at the 1900 Paris Universal exhibition (only from Hungary there were 1500 artists and most pavillions were designed in the new fashion) but since 1905 it started to gradually diminish of intensity due to a slowing economy and the outbreak of the first World War put an end to it, exactly like for , in my opinion, the best period of modern art with Picasso and friends...

Art Nouveau Tiffany's Glass
Art Nouveau Tiffany's Glass
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Stencils, in my opinion, are a brilliant example of the democratization of the arts and crafts that started over 100 years ago. We normally use them today as if they always existed, and in fact they did, but not in such an extent as today. The "modern" stenciling could be dated back at the very beginning of those epochal changes which started around the second half of the 18th century when settlers in the new world wanted to decorate their own houses in a cheaper way than using wallpapers. Incidentally, and through ups and downs, stencils would eventually transform into "clip arts" in the digital society of today.


Nouveau Floral Panel II
Nouveau Floral Panel II
Guerinet, Armand
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Nouveau Tapestry II
Nouveau Tapestry II
Zarris, Chariklia
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Nouveau Leaves I
Nouveau Leaves I
Zarris, Chariklia
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Source: Lara-Vinca, Masini -"Art Nouveau"






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