Art Nouveau, an international style of modern art became popular around 1890 and lasted until the First World War. Emerging of the style was a reaction to 19th century designs, criticized for its historicism and considered outdated. New trend promoted art as a part of everyday life, emphasizing the importance of beautifying common objects. This philosophy was partially inspired by Arts and Crafts Movement, but unlike them, they did not turn away from industrialization. Instead, they incorporated technological innovations into their art embracing the advantages of progress. The concept was revolutionary enough to gain the name of New Art. Artists and designers searched for fresh and new ideas, studied functionality of objects and natural forms. Designers turned to nature for inspiration contemplating its organic beauty. After Exposition Universelle in Paris, in 1900, Art Nouveau spread across Europe and beyond, reaching North America and Australia.
Art Nouveau applied artistic designs to everyday objects. Designers believed that people should surround themselves with beautiful things and art should be available to everyone. New Art glorified creativity, unusual materials and forms, embraced variety. Artisans often used curvilinear forms, asymmetrical shapes, plant forms, floral patterns, folk motifs and beautiful female silhouettes. New Art style was used in every form of art, architecture, jewelry, painting and interior design. In 1920s, Art Deco replaced Art Nouveau.
Term Art Nouveau coms form a Parisian art gallery owned by a collector Siegfried Bing. He specialized in avant-garde art. When in 1900 Siegfried displayed modern furniture and other objects of daily use at Exposition Universelle, his gallery became a synonym of the new style.
European magazines in Germany, central and northern Europe caught up with the newest fashion and started popularizing new style. Art Nouveau was know as young art, new art, modern style, all reflecting the novelty and freshness.
Art Nouveau shared some features with other styles and movement. The designs looked for the inspiration in Romanticism, Arts and Crafts Movement, Celtic style and Symbolism, redefining it, giving it new interpretation, employing innovative technology and using new materials.
Art Nouveau style was widely used in ceramics, glass, jewelry, textiles, domestic utensils, furniture, paintings and even books. Interior designers searched for “natural” style playing in their work with stylized plant forms, organic inspired patterns like grass blades or dragonflies. Rooms were designed to be harmonious and consistent; no surface should be left untouched. Architects created buildings with exposed iron elements, irregular pieces of decorative glass, parabolas and arches.
Jewelry makers, inspired by Japanese art and Art Nouveau ideas started seeing themselves as artists. New materials like horn and ivory were used in producing luxurious and designed pieces. Art Nouveau influence was visible in designs of earrings, bracelets, necklaces and rings.
Art Nouveau took over the whole Europe in a very short time, it was also abandoned very quickly. Many artists and designers forgot that balance between form and function was one of the principles and overused decorations and pursued the most “original” and unusual forms. Beautiful goal of creating art for the masses was never achieved, even with mass production technologies. Artist in many countries tried to turn Art Nouveau into national style, this political aspect of art turned public opinion against it. Soon, Art Nouveau vanished from European design.
Influence of Art Nouveau returned in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Designers once again looked into it searching for inspiration, the breath of freedom and untamed creativity. Nowadays Art Nouveau is considered the prelude to Modernism and establishing modern aesthetic.