Art Nouveau’s Origin

<i>Maison de l'Art Nouveau gallery</i>

Maison de l’Art Nouveau art gallery

The Art Nouveau style originated in the 1890s when Victorian ‘fussiness’ became less popular. The name came from the Maison de l’Art Nouveau (House of the New Art), an art gallery originally opened by Siegfried Bing. The works there were not uniform, as Art Nouveau “did not aspire to any way to have the honor of becoming a generic term. It was simply the name of a house opened as a rallying point for all the young and ardent artists impatient to show the modernity of their tendencies,” Bing (1902).

Art Nouveau has a heavy ‘Japonisme’ influence, the study of Japanese art. It draws heavily on its focus on nature. Art Nouveau carries across many mediums, from architecture, jewellery, ceramics, painting, and furniture and more. The style became global when used in printing and publishing in colour, as well as art posters.

You can identify this style by use of soft colour and mixed metals, the focus on nature and the female form. Primarily iconic for its ‘whiplash’ linearity, the free-flowing line often appears vine-like, and carries a great dreamlike symbolism, optimism, and an aversion to symmetry.


Famous Art Nouveau Designers

Jules Lavirotte
<i>Victor Horta Museum Staircase</i>

Victor Horta Museum Staircase.
Image credit: J.Miles

He was one of the many famous French architects who designed Art Nouveau buildings, known for including sculpture and glazed ceramic tiles on the facades of his buildings. Most of his work is found in the 7th arrondissement, Paris.

Victor Horta

A Belgian architect and designer, he was one of the key figures in Art Nouveau design. His former home, ‘Maison & Atelier Horta’ became the Horta museum in 1969. It is one of the few notable examples of Art Nouveau houses open to the public.

Alphonse Mucha

The artist originally found fame when he volunteered to produce a poster for Gismonda. The play featured Sarah Bernhardt, at the Théâtre de la Renaissance on the Boulevard Saint-Martin. Bernhardt was so pleased by his work that she ordered a six year contract. His style is very distinctive, often featuring beautiful women surrounded by flowers and vines, with long hair interspersed with foliage and exotic flowers.

Louis Aucoc

A leading goldsmith and jeweller, he worked with his brother and father. His designs are classic Art Nouveau – the ‘whiplash’ vine very present in his work.  René Lalique was his apprentice for two years.

<i> Lalique Dragonfly Brooch. Image Credit: <a href="">wikimedia commons</a></i>

Lalique Dragonfly Brooch. Image Credit: wikimedia commons

René Lalique

Known best for his Art Deco glass. Before the Art Deco period, he made breath-taking Art Nouveau pieces of jewellery. Unusual gemstones and delicate enamel became part of his signature style. He also designed for famous brands such as Cartier. The brand is still active today.

Paul Follot

Known for both Art Nouveau and Art Deco, he produced luxury & decorative furniture, silver, textiles and bronzes. His work sometimes has a Gothic influence, before moving to Art Deco.

Georges Fouquet
<i>Fouquet &amp; Mucha, snake bracelet. Image credit: <a href="">brittannica</a></i>

Fouquet & Mucha, snake bracelet. Image credit: brittannica

He made pieces for their aesthetic value. A Parisian jeweller eventually branching out into Art Deco, he was one of Lalique’s competitors. Fouquet and Mucha collaborated to create beautiful pieces of jewellery. Medea is a great example, a golden snake bracelet, coiled around the wrist and up the arm, two snake heads facing each other. They worked together on numerous pieces for Sarah Bernhardt and her plays. Georges later commissioned Mucha to redesign his jewellery shop. The new design focused on nature, beautiful stained glass and peacocks. Eventually, when Art Nouveau moved out of fashion, Fouquet donated Mucha’s design to the Musée Carnavalet in Paris.

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