Art Nouveau or Jugendstil is an international philosophy and style of art, architecture and applied art—especially the decorative arts—that was most popular during 1890–1910. English uses the French name Art nouveau ("new art"), but the style has many different names in other countries. A reaction to academic art of the 19th century, it was inspired by natural forms and structures, not only in flowers and plants, but also in curved lines. Architects tried to harmonize with the natural environment.
Art Nouveau is considered a "total" art style, embracing architecture, graphic art, interior design, and most of the decorative arts including jewellery, furniture, textiles, household silver and other utensils and lighting, as well as the fine arts. According to the philosophy of the style, art should be a way of life. For many well-off Europeans, it was possible to live in an art nouveau-inspired house with art nouveau furniture, silverware, fabrics, ceramics including tableware, jewellery, cigarette cases, etc. Artists desired to combine the fine arts and applied arts, even for utilitarian objects.
Although Art Nouveau was replaced by 20th-century Modernist styles, it is now considered as an important transition between the eclectic historic revival styles of the 19th-century and Modernism. At its beginning, neither Art Nouveau nor Jugendstil was the common name of the style but was known as this in some locations, and the style had different names as it was spread. Those two names came from, respectively, Siegfried Bing's gallery Maison de l'Art Nouveau in Paris and the magazine Jugend in Munich, both of which promoted and popularised the style.
Maison de l'Art Nouveau (House of New Art) was the name of the gallery initiated in 1895 by the German art dealer Siegfried Bing in Paris that featured exclusively modern art. The fame of his gallery was increased at the 1900 Exposition Universelle, where he presented coordinated—in design and color—installations of modern furniture, tapestries and objets d'art. These decorative displays became so strongly associated with the style that the name of his gallery subsequently provided a commonly used term for the entire style. Thus the term "Art Nouveau" was created.
Part of the evolution of Art Nouveau were several international fairs which presented buildings and products designed in the new style. So, the 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition marks the beginning of the Modernisme, with some buildings of Lluís Domènech i Montaner. The Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris, presented an overview of the 'modern style' in every medium. It achieved further recognition at the Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte Decorativa Moderna of 1902 in Turin, Italy, where designers exhibited from almost every European country where Art Nouveau was practiced.
Art Nouveau is usually known as Jugendstil (pronounced [ˈjuːɡən̩tʃtiːl ]) in Germany, as Modern (Модерн) in Russia, as Modernisme in Catalonia (Spain), as Secession in Austria-Hungary and as Stile Liberty in Italy. The style was most popular in Europe, but its influence was global. Hence, it is known in various guises with frequent localised characteristics. Other local names were associated with the characteristics of its forms, its practitioners and their works, and schools of thought or study where it was popular. Many of these terms refer to the idea of "newness". Before the term "Art Nouveau" became common in France, le style moderne ("the modern style") was the more frequent designation. Arte joven ("young art") in Spain, Modernisme in Catalonia, Arte nova in Portugal ("new art"), Arte nuova in Italy (also "new art"), and Nieuwe kunst ("new art") in the Netherlands, модерн ("new", "contemporary") in Russia – all continue this theme. Many names refer specifically to the organic forms that were popular with the Art Nouveau artists: Stile Floreal ("floral style"), Lilienstil ("lily style"), Style Nouille ("noodle style"), Paling Stijl ("eel style"), and Wellenstil ("wave style").
In other cases, important examples, well-known artists, and associated locations influenced the names. Hector Guimard's Paris Métro entrances, for example, provided the term Style Métro, the popularity in Italy of Art Nouveau designs from London's Liberty & Co department store resulted in its being known as the Stile Liberty ("Liberty style"), and, in the United States, it became known as the "Tiffany style" due to its association with Louis Comfort Tiffany. In Austria, a localised form of Art Nouveau was practised by artists of the Vienna Secession, and it is, therefore, known as the Sezessionstil ("Secession style"). As a stand-alone term, however, "Secession" (German: Sezession, Hungarian: szecesszió, Czech: secese) is used frequently to describe the general characteristics of Art Nouveau style outside Vienna, but mostly in areas of Austria-Hungary at the beginning of the 20th century. In the United Kingdom, it is associated with the activities of Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow, and is often known as the "Glasgow" style.
Form and character
Although Art Nouveau acquired distinctly localised tendencies as its geographic spread increased, some general characteristics are indicative of the form. A description published in Pan magazine of Hermann Obrist's wall hanging Cyclamen (1894) described it as "sudden violent curves generated by the crack of a whip", which became well known during the early spread of Art Nouveau. Subsequently, not only did the work itself become better known as The Whiplash but the term "whiplash" is frequently applied to the characteristic curves employed by Art Nouveau artists. Such decorative "whiplash" motifs, formed by dynamic, undulating, and flowing lines in a syncopated rhythm, are found throughout the architecture, painting, sculpture, and other forms of Art Nouveau design.
The origins of Art Nouveau are found in the resistance of the artist William Morris to the cluttered compositions and the revival tendencies of the 19th century and his theories that helped initiate the Arts and crafts movement. However, Arthur Mackmurdo's book-cover for Wren's City Churches (1883), with its rhythmic floral patterns, is often considered the first realisation of Art Nouveau. About the same time, the flat perspective and strong colors of Japanese wood block prints, especially those of Katsushika Hokusai, had a strong effect on the formulation of Art Nouveau. The Japonisme that was popular in Europe during the 1880s and 1890s was particularly influential on many artists with its organic forms and references to the natural world. Besides being adopted by artists like Emile Gallé and James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Japanese-inspired art and design was championed by the businessmen Siegfried Bing and Arthur Lasenby Liberty at their stores in Paris and London, respectively.
In architecture, hyperbolas and parabolas in windows, arches, and doors are common, and decorative mouldings 'grow' into plant-derived forms. Like most design styles, Art Nouveau sought to harmonise its forms. The text above the Paris Metro entrance uses the qualities of the rest of the iron work in the structure.
Art Nouveau in architecture and interior design eschewed the eclectic revival styles of the 19th century. Though Art Nouveau designers selected and 'modernised' some of the more abstract elements of Rococo style, such as flame and shell textures, they also advocated the use of very stylised organic forms as a source of inspiration, expanding the 'natural' repertoire to use seaweed, grasses, and insects. The softly-melding forms of 17th-century auricular style, best exemplified in Dutch silverware, was another influence.
Relationship with contemporary styles and movements
As an art style, Art Nouveau has affinities with the Pre-Raphaelites and the Symbolist styles, and artists like Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse 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 appearance; and, unlike the artisan-oriented Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau artists readily used new materials, machined surfaces, and abstraction in the service of pure design.
Art Nouveau did not negate machines, as the Arts and Crafts Movement did. For sculpture, the principal materials employed were glass and wrought iron, resulting in sculptural qualities even in architecture. Ceramics were also employed in creating editions of sculptures by artists such as Auguste Rodin.
Art Nouveau architecture made use of many technological innovations of the late 19th century, especially the use of exposed iron and large, irregularly shaped pieces of glass for architecture. By the start of World War I, however, the stylised nature of Art Nouveau design—which was expensive to produce—began to be disused in favour of more streamlined, rectilinear modernism, which was cheaper and thought to be more faithful to the plainer industrial aesthetic that became Art deco.
Art Nouveau tendencies were also absorbed into local styles. In Denmark, for example, it was one aspect of Skønvirke ("aesthetic work"), which itself more closely relates to the Arts and Crafts style. Likewise, artists adopted many of the floral and organic motifs of Art Nouveau into the Młoda Polska ("Young Poland") style in Poland. Młoda Polska, however, was also inclusive of other artistic styles and encompassed a broader approach to art, literature, and lifestyle.
Fine art and graphics
The style was the first major artistic stylistic movement in which mass-produced graphics (as opposed to traditional forms of printmaking, which were not very important for the style) played a key role, often techniques of colour printing developed relatively recently. A key influence was the Paris-based Czech artist Alphonse Mucha, who produced a lithographed poster, which appeared on 1 January 1895 in the streets of Paris as an advertisement for the play Gismonda by Victorien Sardou, featuring Sarah Bernhardt. It popularised the new artistic style and its creator to the citizens of Paris. Initially named Style Mucha, (Mucha Style), his style soon became known as Art Nouveau.
Two-dimensional Art Nouveau pieces were painted, drawn, and printed in popular forms such as advertisements, posters, labels, magazines, and the like. 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 many parts of the world.
Magazines like Jugend helped publicise the style in Germany, especially as a graphic artform, while the Vienna Secessionists influenced art and architecture throughout Austria-Hungary. Art Nouveau was also a style of distinct individuals such as Gustav Klimt, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Alphonse Mucha, René Lalique, Antoni Gaudí and Louis Comfort Tiffany, each of whom interpreted it in their own manner.