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Week 6 - Art Nouveau Intro

Art Nouveau will be covered over two weeks. First we'll have a general introduction and cover several regional variations, then we'll cover the other regional variants next week.

Late in the 19th Century, the Arts & Craft Movement influences had largely been replaced by Art Nouveau ("new art") style. The Aesthetic Movement and Japonaiserie formed the basis of Art Nouveau style in England, but more innovative Art Nouveau styles developed in Scotland (Glasgow), Austria (Vienna), Begium (Brussels), Spain (Barcelona) and France (Paris). Art Nouveau styles tend to lean toward strict geometric forms or very organic, curvilinear ('whiplash') forms: Glasgow and Vienna belong in the first category, whereas Brussels and Paris belong in the second category. Different terms are used for various regional Nouveau styles:

  • Art Nouveau in Britain, France, Belgium and US (eg: CR Macintosh)
  • Jugendstil in Germany (eg Peter Behrens)
  • Sezessionstil in Austria (eg J Hoffmann, K Moser)
  • Modernista or Modernisme in Spain (eg Gaudi)
  • Stile Liberty in Italy.
Despite many regional variations and several outstanding individual designers. Art Nouveau styles are linked by their focus on the creation of a new style befitting the new century, their opposition to borrowing styles from history or from other cultures, their concern for simplicity of design and their return to natural form as a source of decorative ideas. - From P. Garn-Jones' handout.
Definition of Art Nouveau: An international, late 19th- and early 20th-century decorative style characterized by organic foliate forms, sinuous lines, and non-geometric, "whiplash" curves. Art Nouveau originated in Europe in the 1880s, and reached the peak of its popularity around 1900. In America, it inspired, among others, Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933). The name is derived from "La Maison de l'Art Nouveau," a gallery for interior design that opened in Paris in 1896. The German term for Art Nouveau is Jugendstil.
Ref: www.cmog.org

"Art Nouveau" is French for "New Art" - but in what ways was it new?

It offered a new vocabulary of form. Various Victorian styles, including the Arts & Craft Movement, had revived and developed historical styles such as Gothic, Classical and Rococo. Art Nouveau, however, introduced new forms, often based on nature. Flowers such as lilies, tulips and stylised roses were widely used, as were birds - in particular swans and peacocks.

Another defining characteristic of Art Nouveau is it's emphasis on symbolism. The biomorphic forms were not just intended as decoration, they were meant to represent something, such as purity. In this aspect, Art Nouveau was particularly influenced by Symbolist poets and painters. In fact, some Symbolist painters and poets ended up becoming what we'd call today Industrial Designers. Henri van de Velde (1863-1957) is one such example - began as a painter and ended up not only designing for Industry, but writing a philosophical paper about the relationship between designer and machine production.

It is this embracing of mass production that most clearly divides Art Nouveau designers from their Arts & Craft Movement forefathers.

Another vital aspect of Art Nouveau that not only made it "new" but revolutionised design was the emphasis on the relationship between function and form. In Victorian England, things may have been functional but it was almost in spite of any deliberate aesthetic design. Certainly there are very few examples from that period where the function of an object was the driving force in it's aesthetic design.

Technological developments were key to Art Nouveau design. Speed (such as that of stream-trains) and electricity inspired some of the most fundamental forms of Art Nouveau. The curvilinear "whiplash" motif (curved line) dominanted much Art Nouveau design, in particular that of Spain, France, England, Vienna & the US. Rectilinear (rectangular lines) dominanted Viennese, German and Scottish Art Nouveau - although there were designers using both rectilinear and curvilinear lines simultaneously, and designers with their own personal style that wasn't necessarily typical for their local version of Art Nouveau.

The Japanese Influence previously discussed also had a major impact upon Art Nouveau. The simplicity of forms, the use of "whitespace" and other characteristics of Japanese art can be seen clearly in the work of such Nouveau poster artists as Tolouse Lautrec, Aubrey Beardsley and Alphonse Mucha.
Google Directory - Art Movements - Art Nouveau
the-artists.org/MovementView.cfm?id=8A01F00 0%2DBBCF%2D11D4%2DA93500D0B7069B40


Art Nouveau in the UK
Google.com image search for Art Nouveau UK

Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) in Glasgow, Scotland, preferred the strength of the rectilinear line. Interestingly though, he also used Celt-derived patterns from sources such as the Irish Book of Kells (800AD) to appeal to national sentiment and pride. Key works: architecture, interior design and furniture for Glasgow Art School & Library; several Tearooms for Kate Cranston. He was influential to Viennese style.


Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898) was a writer and illustrator whose works, although being very beautiful have been much criticised for their coldness. It is stylised eroticism, and he's a good example of how some aspects of Art Nouveau were influenced by the growing decadence of the era in reaction to the stuffiness of Victorian society. The writer Oscar Wilde was a good friend of Beardsley, and Beardsley illustrated some of Wilde's books. Beardsley died at 26. The peacock feather motif is very common in his work.

Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo (1851-1942)

A H Mackmurdo was originally a friend of William Morris, founder of the Arts & Craft Movement. Along with Morris, he was involved in setting up the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. Over the years, though, Mackmurdo became far more interested in the idea of mass production, in order to get the beautiful (and increasingly practical) homewares they designed to "the people". As this was against Morris's basic principals of hand-crafting, they ended up following very different paths. victorianweb.org/art/design/mackmurdo/ahmov.html


Archibald Knox (1864-1933)

Archibald Knox was a designer for Liberty & Co, mentioned in the Aestheticism page. During this later period, he designed distinctive metalwares for Liberty, including the Tudric Range of pewterware such as the clock shown here. He also designed jewellery with similar organic embellishments of twisting vines.

Liberty & Co were such leaders in the Art Nouveau Movement that the style was actually known as "Stile Liberty" in Italy, after the London company. As you can see by these examples, not all Art Nouveau in the UK was the rectilinear style of the Glasgow School. These English examples by Knox are are curvilinear, with hardly a straight line to be found in any of the pieces.

Art Nouveau in Vienna, Austria

Art Nouveau in Austria was known as Sezessionstil or the Vienna Secession. One of the foremost of the Guilds was the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop). The Wiener Werkstätte (also spelled Wiener Werkstaette) produced a wide range of products: furniture, fabrics, fittings & furnishings, ceramics, metalware, jewellery, glass, fashion and bookbinding. In the later years, the designers and architects developed their style into Art Deco (see later lectures).

The Rectilinear line was dominant in both Austrian and German Art Nouveau.
Google.com image search for Art Nouveau Vienna

Google Image Search for Sezession
Google Image Search for Secession + Austria


Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)

Artist of great influence in the Art Nouveau scene in Vienna. He used gold leaf extensively, and his work was very much influenced by Japanese prints.



Otto Wagner (1841-1918)

Architect and town planner, one of the founders of the Vienna Secession. One of his great achievements is the Vienna Underground which he designed and helped to build. A number of the original buildings from the Vienna Underground still stand. He also made some very clean, rectilinear funriture such as this armchair.
Google Image Search for Otto Wagner

Koloman (Kolo) Moser (1868-1918)

Painter and designer, the "Master of Viennese Modernism". One of the founders of the Wiener Werkstätte.
Google Image search for Koloman Moser

Josef Hoffmann (1870-1956)

Also spelled Joseph Hoffman. An architect who along with Moser was one of the key founders of the Wiener Werkstätte. Hoffman designed a wide range of items including architecture, furniture, utensils, clothing, bookbindings, posters, textiles, and wallpapers. He was very influenced by William Morris and the ideas of Ruskin and the Arts & Crafts Movement in the UK.

Josef Maria Olbrich (1867-1908)

Architect of the Secession Building.


Baroness Gisela Falke von Lilienstein (1871-?)

Wiener Werkstätte designer. Some of her designs were strikingly modern.

Art Nouveau in Germany

Art Nouveau in Germany was known as Jugendstil.

German Art Nouveau has been called the Birthplace of Modern Design. The Deutscher Werkbund was founded in 1907 to advance the quality of Industrial Design, and it is from this foundation that the later Bauhaus style developed - which is probably the most important school in the history of object design.

Germany was never involved in the anti-mechanisation Arts & Crafts Movement, and had no philosophical problem with the idea of mass production.

Jugendstil tended to use geometric forms and undecorated surfaces.
Google.com image search for Art Nouveau Germany

Peter Behrens (1868-1940) designed many style-setting electrical appliances. His students included Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, who would later become the "three giants of 20th Century design".

Richard Riemerschmid (1868 -1957)

Jugendstil architect and designer, one of the founding members of the Deutscher Werkbund. This chair was exhibited at the Paris World Fair in 1900.
e-wood-mini.com/rie page eng.htm

Contextual factors to consider:

  • The Victorian era was coming to a close and World War One was looming.

Some key technical innovations:

Meanwhile, in Fine Art:

  • Symbolism evolves into Expressionism
  • Impressionism and Post Impressionism evolve into Fauvism
  • Cubism begins - will evolve into Modernism.
retrokat.com quite nice sites

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