Art Nouveau

Alphonse Mucha

Poster work by Alphonse Mucha

Learning about different artistic movements is one of our favorite things about adopting the vintage lifestyle. There’s always been something hypnotic and alluring about the Art Nouveau movement. This “new art” style captivated the world during the late 1880s and up until WWI it was the talk of the town. It embraced all forms of creative expression: art, architecture, graphic design, furniture design, etc. Let’s explore a bit more about Art Nouveau…

The history of the Art Nouveau movement


Aubrey Beardsley, Peacock Skirt

This style started in the printmaking and graphic design industries, where artists began stepping outside of tradition, seeing their creations as an integral component of daily life. In their mind, Art Nouveau represented a formal resistance to designers who revived older styles and techniques. Their new art was informed by natural discoveries in botanic and marine biology, revered the modern woman whose long hair and seductive qualities contrasted the traditional idol, reflected the mystical properties of the spirit world, and sought to harmonize the natural realm with the brave new industrial world. These beliefs are expressed in curved lines that are typically called “whiplash curves,” great craftsmanship, and the use of exotic/precious/new materials. (Cast iron was a favorite medium.)

Image by esculapio

Casa Batllo by Antoni Gaudi

The term art nouveau first appeared in the 1880s in the Belgian journal, L’Art Moderne, but the movement really took off with the Paris opening of Siegfried Bing’s “L’Art Nouveau” gallery in 1895. Due to this promotion, the style is mostly connected to France. Here it is known by a variety of names: Style Jules Verne, Le Style Métro, Art belle époque, or Art fin de siècle. During the grand 1900 Exposition Universelle, the rest of the world took note of this French phenomenon. Its largest following remained European and most of its expansion/promotion was due to the Vienna Secession. This collective of artists first banded together in 1897 and their stunning creations brought Art Nouveau into the forefront. Perhaps Gustav Klimt, with his elaborate gold leaf paintings, was the most famous of the group.

As Art Nouveau’s scope expanded, each region established their own local interpretation. In Germany it was called jugendstil, while in Spain it was commonly called the modernista movement. With a diverse group of artists like Antoni Gaudí, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Victor Horta, René Lalique, Georges Fouquet, Aubrey Beardsley, and Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, the movement gained serious traction. But unfortunately Art Nouveau’s influence was relatively short-lived, with the start of an epic war the Modernist styles came calling. Despite its brief course, Art Nouveau continues to impact modern day artists and designers alike.

Cause A Frockus would like to thank their tremendous resources: Met Museum, National Gallery of Art, The Art Story, the BBC, and the people who post their imagery without restriction.

For our readers: What do you love about Art Nouveau? Who is your favorite artist for this movement?

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