Art Nouveau Information

A  style and ethos taking many forms that was popular from the late 19Th century to the beginning of the First World War and has continued to influence art ever since.

  • The style, which takes its name from the French, literally means “new art.”
  • The movement took its name from La Maison de l’Art Nouveau in Paris, a shop keen to promote modern ideas in art.
  • Art Nouveau flourished in Britain with its progressive Arts and Crafts movement, but was highly successful all around the world.
  • It was influenced by the Symbolists most obviously in their shared preference for exotic detail, as well as by Celtic and Japanese art.
  • The Art Nouveau style has its inspirations in High Victorian style, Roccoco, and Japanese art.
  • It has affinities with the contemporary Pre-Raphaelite, Symbolist, and Arts and Crafts styles.
  • Before introducing the Catalan Art Nouveau (named in Catalan “Modernisme”), it is interesting to know it’s European context.

Design features

  • Its most common themes were symbolic and frequently erotic and the movement, despite not lasting beyond 1914 was important in terms of the development of abstract art.
  • It was characterised by an elaborate ornamental style based on asymmetrical lines, frequently depicting flowers, leaves or tendrils, or in the flowing hair of a female.
  • It is characterized by the use of stylized organic shapes and dramatic, curving lines. Many of its themes are taken from nature.
  • It can be seen most effectively in the decorative arts, for example interior design, glass-work and jewellery.
  • However, it was also seen in posters and illustration as well as certain paintings and sculptures of the period.

Art nouveau artists

  • The first references of Art Nouveau are in England with the works of John Ruskin (1819-1900), influenced by Gothic art, he published an enormous quantity of books on literature, painting, architecture, sculpture, aesthetics, and a lot of other social themes.
  • His extraordinary taste for any type of art allowed him to value both the primitive Italian painters, the English pre-Raphaelites or Turner. He was an art propagandist.
  • His ideas had been influencing the Arts and Crafts movement who highlight the return to the nature, beautiful designs, graceful shapes, undulations, with a fascinating charm, in which are represented vegetables, flowers, insects, fishes, dragons and coloured birds.
  • The leading exponents included the illustrators Aubrey Beardsley and Walter Crane in England; the architects Henry van de Velde and Victor Horta in Belgium; the jewellery designer René Lalique in France; the painter Gustav Klimt in Austria; the architect Antonio Gaudí in Spain; and the glassware designer Louis C. Tiffany and the architect Louis Sullivan in the United States.
  • Art nouveau had incarnations throughout the Western world in the early 20th century, notably Jugendstil in Germany and Scandinavia.