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Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau or “New Art” is an international style of modern art that flourished from
1890 to the First World War in 1910 throughout Western Europe and the United States.
Inspired by the natural world, Art Nouveau employed long, flowing, unruly lines and
“whiplash” curves often based on plant forms. Floral and other plant-inspired motifs are
popular Art Nouveau designs, as well as female silhouettes and forms. The term Art
Nouveau was coined by a gallery in Paris that exhibited much of this work. In Belgium, it
was called Style nouille (“noodle”) or Style coup de fouet (“whiplash”). In Germany, it
was known as Jugendstil or “young style.” In Italy, it was named Arte Nuova, Stile floreale,
or La Stile Liberty after the London firm of Liberty & Co.. In Spain, it was termed
Modernismo. In Austria and Hungary, it was called Sezessionstil. In Russia, it was named
Stil’ modern. In the United States, it was called “Tiffany Style” because of the legendary
Favrile glass designs of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Other names are Style Metro, fin-de-
siècle, and Belle Époque in France.

The characteristic of Art Nouveau is its undulating, asymmetrical line, often taking
the form of flower stalks and buds, vine tendrils, insect wings, and other delicate and
flowing natural objects. The line may be elegant and graceful or infused with a powerfully
rhythmic and whip-like force. It was employed most often in architecture, interior design,
jewelry and glass design, posters and illustration, as well as painting and sculpture.

Art Nouveau developed first in England. It soon spread to the European continent.
The term art nouveau first appeared in the 1880s in the Belgian art journal L’Art Moderne
to describe the work of Les Vingt, a society of 20 painters and sculptors seeking reform
through art. In December 1895, the German-born art dealer Siegfried Bing opened a
gallery in Paris named “Maison l’Art Nouveau.” Branching out from the Japanese
ceramics and ukiyo-e prints for which he had become known, Bing promoted this “new
art” in the gallery. He sold a selection of furniture, fabrics, wallpaper, and objets d’art.
The Arts Nouveau movement is influenced by the Aestheticism of the English illustrator
Aubrey Vincent Beardsley, who depended heavily on the expressive quality of organic
line, and the Arts and Crafts movement of William Morris, who established the importance
of a vital style in the applied arts. They are also inspired by Japonism, especially the
ukiyo-e prints of Japanese artists Ando Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai, as well as
Celtic designs.

Some of the most known Art Nouveau artists include Aubrey Vincent Beardsley
who is known for his flamboyant black and white block print J’ai baisé ta bouche
lokanaan for Oscar Wilde’s play Salomé; Austrian painter Gustav Klimt for his murals for
the new Burgtheater in Vienna’s Ringstrasse, The Kiss; Louis Comfort Tiffany who is best
known for an innovative fabrication of leaded glass that became a distinctly American
phenomenon; Czech artist Alphonse Mucha for Gismonda and his representations of la
femme nouvelle (the bold new woman); and Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi who is
famous for the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain.

References:

LeBourdais, G. 2016, November 24. What is Art Nouveau? Retrieved from


https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-art-nouveau

Gontar, C. 2006, October. Art Nouveau. Retrieved from


http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/artn/hd_artn.htm

The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. 1998, July 20. Art Nouveau Artistic Style.
Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/art/Art-Nouveau