We’ve all heard of Art Nouveau in some context or another. Art Nouveau furniture, architecture, graphics, and so one. Perhaps Art Nouveau transports your imagination to the early 20th century, when the world was becoming more and more industrialized and technology was changing society rapidly. You would be right. Today we’ll delve into this interesting topic.
Art Nouveau come from French and literally means New Art. This movement took place roughly between 1890 and 1910 and started - you guessed it - in France. Later, it spread throughout Europe.
The goal of its creators was to start a new art, for a new century. The idea was to move away from the previous styles of the Past and establish a brand new art. A new art, for a new Era.
The artists that embraced Art Nouveau wanted to rekindle the appreciation for good craftsmanship in an age of increasing industrialization and mass production. In the same token, these artists were often eclectics who were seeking reintegration of all the arts.
What we mean by that is that artists who created Art Nouveau furniture would often work on other areas of design such as architecture and interior design, but always guided by the same ideas.
The main characteristic of Art Nouveau furniture is the use of long, sinuous lines. Some of these lines come in the form of whipslash curves, which are elongated curving lines that bend back on themselves.
Motifs of this style are also very interesting and original: you have naturalistic yet stylized forms, combined with geometric shapes like semi circles or arcs. Imagery like insects, weeds or even mythical fairies would appear.
The style is highly decorative and sinuous and was very popular during its short-lived time. It would later influence all modern furniture and art as it may be considered the first “modern style”.
But why, despite its popularity, was Art Nouveau short lived? The reason is because it was expensive to create and required high level of skill. All those elaborate curves and twists in hardwood were not exactly easy to make, and so we have a style that was popular but few could afford.
Nonetheless, its influence remained and would inspire future generations of artists.
Many people confuse Art Nouveau with Art Deco. Here’s the point to remember: they are both reactions to two major world events. Art Nouveau is a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and is the decorative, “flowery” one. Art Deco is a reaction to World War I, and is the “streamlined”, sleeker one.