You’ve likely heard of Art Nouveau even if you aren’t quite sure what it is. And you’ve probably seen it many times without even realizing it. From the famous Art Nouveau posters to the ornate and curvy typefaces, the movement affected many everyday items.
There’s a chance you’re admiring something from within this design movement if you see a wealth of lines at work.
From the late 18th century until the start of World War 1, art, architecture, and design were full of unruly twisting lines. Art Nouveau aimed to modernize design and escape the popular historical styles. A generation of artists and designers worked to make an art form appropriate for the modern age.
What is Art Nouveau?
Art Nouveau is French for “new art.” It started in the late 1800s in France and spread throughout the world. The movement used organic and geometric forms with elegant designs. It was inspired by flowing, natural forms—like the stems and blossoms of plants. Insect wings, vine tendrils, and other delicate winding natural objects can be seen within the movement. It took these designs and forms from nature and stylized them with fluid curves.
Other features of Art Nouveau were a sense of movement produced by asymmetry and whiplash lines. It also used modern materials like iron, glass, and ceramic.
A primary goal of the movement was to break down the traditional difference between the fine arts—like painting and sculpture—and applied arts. Applied arts comprise of the design and decoration used on everyday, practical objects to make them visually pleasing. For instance, think of a swirling staircase or beautifully painted ceramic vase.
Art was no longer confined to art galleries. Instead, it could be seen in everyday objects, on walls, and in magazines.
Examples of Art Nouveau Design
Art Nouveau is seen across many design genres—from interior design to metalworks. Here are some examples of areas where it has had a major influence, and some artists who made an impact:
- Art Nouveau was popular in lithographs, posters, ads, and magazines.
- Famous examples of graphic arts are the posters of Alphonse Mucha. These works feature women with long wisps of hair and flowing clothing. They also have decorative backgrounds, often with botanical designs.
- Common Art Nouveau design included colorful decorations and detailed iron and glasswork. It often looked like a plant was growing on the building.
- The interior design of the buildings was as elaborate as the exterior. They regularly had custom furnishings and hand-painted walls.
- Hector Guimard was a French architect and designer who designed the Castel Beranger, the first Art Nouveau apartment in Paris.
- The ceramics of Art Nouveau have a Japanese influence.
- A range of matte or crystallized glazes are the hallmark of this style. They are created with a high-fired porcelain.
- Edmond Lachenal was central in the development of Art nouveau in ceramics. His work is included in collections in the Louvre in Paris.
- The work of Gustav Klimt is an excellent example of Art Nouveau in painting. His famous work, The Kiss, is a leading example of the movement.
Today artists and designers still get inspiration from this style that made use of the natural world and rejected tradition. You can see it in everything from graphic and interior design, to jewelry and glasswork.