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Art Nouveau is a style of art that appeared in Europe during the late 19th century, though it's influence is global and continuous. The artistic style, which takes its name from the French, literally means "new art" and is characterized by the use of organic shapes and dramatic, curving lines that encompass many forms of art including paintings, glassware, furniture, and architecture. Many of its themes are taken from nature, though presented quite abstractly, and includes plants, flowers, and naturally curved lines. Some famous artists for this style include Aubrey Beardsley, Thomas Malory, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. This stylistic choice was eventually replaced in the twentieth century, but its influence can still be seen in Europe and other parts of the world.
Besides nature, the Art Nouveau style also gleans inspiration from High Victorian, Roccoco, and Japanese art; in addition, this artistic style has affinities with the contemporary Pre-Raphaelite, Symbolism, and Arts and Crafts styles. The 19th century artistic style was succeeded in the 20th century by the emergent Art Deco style, which incorporated more geometrical shapes and had an even more stylized appearance; however, Art Nouveau still holds somewhat of an influence in certain decorative arts, especially jewelry. Art Nouveau had a few revivals throughout the Western world in the early 20th century, notably the artistic style known as Jugendstil in Germany and Scandinavia.
Commonly found in architecture and design, the art nouveau style can be seen in many of the world's cities, and perhaps most famously in the Parisian Metro stations. Many of the metro stations have cast iron supports that resemble plant stems on the exterior portions of the buildings, and others have detailed glass canopies designed in the "new art" style. While there were glass canopies designed in this artistic style, smaller glassware were created as well. This lead to jewelry being created in the new art style, which is still used today for jewelry design. Art Nouveau also frequently appeared in paintings, illustrations, and advertisements of the 19th century, as well as many furniture pieces.
Rennie Mackintosh was a major Art Nouveau architect and furniture designer who worked in Scotland and England, and his work provides classic examples of the artistic style. Parisians Rene Lalique and Emile Galle, and the American designer Louis Comfort Tiffany are among the artists who helped extend the style to jewelry and various decorative arts. Aubrey Beardsley famously illustrated Oscar Wilde's play Salome, Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur, and the periodical The Yellow Book.
In the category of painters, Alphonse Mucha was a Czech painter best remembered for his "new art" poster designs, and Gustav Klimt was a Viennese painter and muralist noted for his heavy use of gold and mosaic-like designs. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec became famous for his Moulin Rouge, Art Nouveau style, while Edvard Munch, a Norwegian painter, produced some of the darkest examples of the artistic style in his Frieze of Life series of paintings.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Art Nouveau and when did it originate?
Art Nouveau is a style of decorative art, architecture, and design that emerged in the late 19th century, around 1890, and peaked in popularity at the turn of the 20th century. Characterized by its use of long, sinuous, organic lines and was inspired by natural forms such as the curving shapes of plants and flowers. It was a reaction against the academic art, eclecticism, and historicism of 19th-century architecture and decoration.
What are the key characteristics of Art Nouveau design?
Art Nouveau design is distinguished by its flowing lines, naturalistic forms, and emphasis on craftsmanship. Key characteristics include the use of asymmetrical shapes, extensive use of arches and curved forms, intricate linear patterns, and often, the incorporation of floral and other plant-inspired motifs. Stained glass, mosaics, and ornamental ironwork are also common features in Art Nouveau architecture and objects.
Who are some famous Art Nouveau artists and designers?
Famous Art Nouveau artists and designers include Alphonse Mucha, whose posters and advertisements epitomized the elegance of the style; architect Antoni Gaudí, known for his distinctive buildings in Barcelona; and Louis Comfort Tiffany, renowned for his exquisite glass designs. Other notable figures include René Lalique, a master of Art Nouveau jewelry, and Victor Horta, who made significant contributions to Art Nouveau architecture.
How did Art Nouveau influence architecture and interior design?
Art Nouveau had a profound impact on architecture and interior design, introducing organic forms and decorative elements that were in stark contrast to the rigid structures of the past. Architects like Victor Horta and Antoni Gaudí designed buildings with flowing lines, incorporating elements from nature into their work. Interiors were harmoniously designed with furniture, textiles, and wall decorations that adhered to the Art Nouveau aesthetic, creating a comprehensive visual language.
Where can I see examples of Art Nouveau today?
Examples of Art Nouveau can be seen worldwide, particularly in cities where the movement flourished. Notable places include Brussels, where Victor Horta's work is well-preserved; Barcelona, home to Antoni Gaudí's architectural masterpieces like the Sagrada Família; and Paris, where the entrances to the Métro stations designed by Hector Guimard are iconic representations of the style. Museums such as the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London also house significant Art Nouveau collections.