Art Club Bangladesh

Fine Art Gallery exhibiting works of art from B’desh & SAARC countries

Art Nouveau

Poster by Alfons Mucha

Poster by Alfons Mucha

Vitebsk Railway Station one of the finest examples of Art Nouveau architecture.

Vitebsk Railway Station one of the finest examples of Art Nouveau architecture.

Art Nouveau (IPA: [ar nu vo], anglicised /ˈɑːt nuːvəu/) (French for ‘new art’) is an international style of art, architecture and design that peaked in popularity at the beginning of the 20th century (1880-1914) and is characterized by highly-stylized, flowing, curvilinear designs often incorporating floral and other plant-inspired motifs. More localized terms for the phenomenon of self-consciously radical, somewhat mannered reformist chic that formed a prelude to 20th-century modernism include Jugendstil in Germany and many other countries or skønvirke in Denmark, named after the avant-garde periodical Jugend (‘Youth’), Młoda Polska (‘Young Poland’ style) in Poland, and Sezessionsstil (‘Secessionism’) in Vienna, where forward-looking artists and designers seceded from the mainstream salon exhibitions to exhibit on their own work in more congenial surroundings. Further centers were in Belgium (especially Brussels) and Scotland (Glasgow).

In Russia, the movement revolved around the art magazine Mir iskusstva (‘World of Art’), which spawned the revolutionary Ballets Russes. In Italy, Stile Liberty was named for the London shop, Liberty & Co, which distributed modern design emanating from the Arts and Crafts movement, a sign both of the Art Nouveau’s commercial aspect and the ‘imported’ character that it always retained in Italy.

In Spain, the movement was centred in Barcelona and was known as modernisme, with the architect Antoni Gaudí as the most noteworthy practitioner. Art Nouveau was also a force in Eastern Europe, with the influence of Alfons Mucha in Prague and Moravia (part of the modern Czech Republic) and Latvian Romanticism (Riga, the capital of Latvia, is home to over 800 Art Nouveau buildings).

The entrances to the Paris Métro designed by Hector Guimard in 1899 and 1900 are famous examples of Art Nouveau.



History of Art Nouveau

Bookcover of Arthur Mackmurdo, Wren's City Churches, 1883

Bookcover of Arthur Mackmurdo, Wren’s City Churches, 1883

Ingram Chairs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 1899

Ingram Chairs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 1899

Art Nouveau climaxed in the years 1892 to 1902. One of the first Art nouveau paintings can be found at Roquetaillade castle (France). Viollet-le-Duc restored the castle in the 1850’s, and eventhough his ideal was to create a Gothic revival, his fresque in the keep of the castle is a pure example of “pre” Art Nouveau style :- organique movement, colour and grace.

The first stirrings of an Art Nouveau “movement” can be recognized in the 1880s, in a handful of progressive designs such as the architect-designer Arthur Mackmurdo‘s book cover design for his essay on the city churches of Sir Christopher Wren, published in 1883. Some free-flowing wrought iron from the 1880s could also be adduced, or some flat floral textile designs, most of which owed some impetus to patterns of High Victorian design.

The name ‘Art Nouveau’ derived from the name of a shop[1] in Paris, Maison de l’Art Nouveau, at the time run by Siegfried Bing, that showcased objects that followed this approach to design.

A high point in the evolution of Art Nouveau was the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris, in which the ‘modern style’ triumphed in every medium. It probably reached its apogee, however, at the Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte Decorativa Moderna of 1902 in Turin, Italy, where designers exhibited from almost every European country where Art Nouveau flourished. Art Nouveau made use of many technological innovations of the late 19th century, especially the broad use of exposed iron and large, irregularly shaped pieces of glass in architecture. By the start of the First World War, however, the highly stylized nature of Art Nouveau design — which itself was expensive to produce — began to be dropped in favor of more streamlined, rectilinear modernism that was cheaper and thought to be more faithful to the rough, plain, industrial aesthetic that became Art Deco.

Character of Art Nouveau

St. Louis World's Fair, (1904). Entrance to the Creation exhibit.

St. Louis World’s Fair, (1904). Entrance to the Creation exhibit.

Dynamic, undulating, and flowing, with curved ‘whiplash’ lines of syncopated rhythm, characterized much of Art Nouveau. Another feature is the use of hyperbolas and parabolas. Conventional mouldings seem to spring to life and ‘grow’ into plant-derived forms.

As an art movement it has affinities with the Pre-Raphaelites and the Symbolism (arts) movement, and artists like Aubrey Beardsley, Alfons Mucha, Edward Burne-Jones, Gustav Klimt, and Jan Toorop could be classed in more than one of these styles. Unlike Symbolist painting, however, Art Nouveau has a distinctive visual look; and unlike the backward-looking Arts and Crafts Movement (although they weren’t backward at all), Art Nouveau artists quickly used new materials, machined surfaces, and abstraction in the service of pure design.

Vase by Daum (c. 1900).

Vase by Daum (c. 1900).

Bellas Artes Palace in Mexico City.

Bellas Artes Palace in Mexico City.

Art Nouveau in architecture and interior design eschewed the eclectic revival styles of the Victorian era. Though Art Nouveau designers selected and ‘modernized’ some of the more abstract elements of Rococo style, such as flame and shell textures, they also advocated the use of highly stylized organic forms as a source of inspiration, expanding the ‘natural’ repertoire to embrace seaweed, grasses, and insects.

Japanese wood-block prints, with their curved lines, patterned surfaces, contrasting voids, and flatness of visual plane, also inspired Art Nouveau. Some line and curve patterns became graphic clichés that were later found in works of artists from all parts of the world.

Art Nouveau did not negate the machine as the Arts and Crafts Movement did, but used it to its advantage. For sculpture, the principal materials employed were glass and wrought iron, leading to sculptural qualities even in architecture.

Art Nouveau is considered a ‘total’ style, meaning that it encompasses a hierarchy of scales in design — architecture; interior design; decorative arts including jewelery, furniture, textiles, household silver and other utensils, and lighting; and the range of visual arts. (See Hierarchy of genres.)

Art Nouveau media

The Peacock Skirt, by Aubrey Beardsley, (1892).

The Peacock Skirt, by Aubrey Beardsley, (1892).

Two-dimensional Art Nouveau pieces were painted, drawn, and printed in popular forms such as advertisements, posters, labels, magazines, and the like.

Glass making was an area in which the style found tremendous expression — for example, the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany in New York, Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow and Émile Gallé and the Daum brothers in Nancy, France.

Jewelery of the Art Nouveau period revitalized the jeweler’s art, with nature as the principal source of inspiration, complemented by new levels of virtuosity in enameling and the introduction of new materials, such as opals and semi-precious stones. The widespread interest in Japanese art, and the more specialized enthusiasm for Japanese metalworking skills, fostered new themes and approaches to ornament.

For the previous two centuries, the emphasis in fine jewelery had been on gemstones, particularly on the diamond, and the jeweler or goldsmith had been principally concerned with providing settings for their advantage. With Art Nouveau, a different type of jewelery emerged, motivated by the artist-designer rather than the jeweler as setter of precious stones.

Mikhail Vrubel. Demon Seated in a Garden, 1890

Mikhail Vrubel. Demon Seated in a Garden, 1890

The jewelers of Paris and Brussels defined Art Nouveau in jewelery, and in these cities it achieved the most renown. Contemporary French critics were united in acknowledging that jewelery was undergoing a radical transformation, and that the French designer-jeweler-glassmaker René Lalique was at its heart. Lalique glorified nature in jewelery, extending the repertoire to include new aspects of nature — dragonflies or grasses — inspired by his encounter with Japanese art.

The jewelers were keen to establish the new style in a noble tradition, and for this they looked back to the Renaissance, with its jewels of sculpted and enameled gold, and its acceptance of jewelers as artists rather than craftsmen. In most of the enameled work of the period precious stones receded. Diamonds were usually given subsidiary roles, used alongside less familiar materials such as moulded glass, horn and ivory.

Geographical scope of Art Nouveau

Interior of a dome in the Grand Palais, Paris

Interior of a dome in the Grand Palais, Paris

Centers of the style are:


Noted Art Nouveau practitioners

Designed in 1899, the Porte Dauphine station exhibits Hector Guimard's only surviving enclosed edicule of the Paris Métro.

Designed in 1899, the Porte Dauphine station exhibits Hector Guimard‘s only surviving enclosed edicule of the Paris Métro.


Art, drawing, and graphics

Murals and mosaics


Glassware and stained glass

Other decorative arts

See also


  1. ^ A modern equivalent might be called “an interior design gallery”, implying that the arts of design are equivalent in importance to the “fine arts“, an Art Nouveau axiom.

One Response to “Art Nouveau”

  1. clever clasp

    clever clasp

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