The term Art Nouveau is French for “New Art.” It’s a decorative style of art that originated in Europe between 1890-1910. Art Nouveau design also impacted other powerful graphic arts such as Art Deco.
Art Nouveau design became extremely popular because of its natural lines, structures, and forms. Also, Art Nouveau artists liked using the curved lines method associated with decorative arts in flowers and plants.
Surprisingly, the Art Nouveau movement was short-lived; it was only famous in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. However, its legacy lives on today in numerous ways with companies like HomesDirect365 who have a vast range of French furniture that is very popular.
The history of Art Nouveau
Many believe the Art Nouveau movement originated from the desire to create a new style of art that liberated artists from the obsession with working only on historical subjects.
Japanese art also had a great influence on many European artists before the advent of Art Nouveau. Commerce started developing in Japan around 1860, opening up the country and its art to the rest of the world.
William Morris initiated Art Nouveau in the period leading up to the first world war. Morris was a renowned British textile designer, writer, and social activist who dedicated his time to the arts and crafts movement.
Those working in the arts and crafts movement (a precursor to Art Nouveau) aimed to prioritise visual arts that featured day-to-day life. Art Nouveau became an upgrade of the ideas of the art and craft movement, with artists focusing on the importance of appreciating beauty in all objects.
Art Nouveau doesn’t see art as a lifeless painting you hang up, but something functional and available to most people. It draws inspiration from plants and nature; hence people can readily associate with the subject matter.
What are the characteristics of Art Nouveau?
Many Art Nouveau designers commit to being creative and forward-looking artists. Thus, they don’t copy the artistic work of the past. Instead, they set out to deliberately craft their own new and independent path.
The Art Nouveau designer gets their inspiration by displaying their artistic talent using elements found in the natural world.
Key characteristics of Art Nouveau design include:
- Strong lines
- Curved and longer lines
- Conservative and linear lines
- Lines of vertical height
- The whiplash line
What are the objectives of Art Nouveau?
Fine arts glorifies aesthetics but lacks concept, as it is all about beauty. In contrast, Art Nouveau encourages the use of applied arts instead. It thrives in skills used by designers who are involved in everyday life and the making of practical objects. It allows the artist to add functional purpose and application, such as architecture, jewellery, and interior design.
Art Nouveau also helped to bring about equality between fine arts and all other arts. From the 16th to 19th century, the academic world treated fine arts and sculptures as superior to other art forms, making them more prominent. Art Nouveau was instrumental in the decline of this approach.
When to use Art Nouveau in your branding
Art Nouveau helps you transform traditional designs or decorative patterns into modern, fresh-looking art forms.
One thing that makes designers celebrate Art Nouveau is that it proved to be inclusive for all artists. Consequently, artists use this design style for visual identities that convey originality, admiration for nature, elegance, and an appreciation of the beauty within all things.
3 well-known Art Nouveau artists
Here’s a quick guide to three of the best-known Art Nouveau artists.
Mucha was a renowned artist from the Czech Republic. He is famous for designing commissioned pieces that also served as adverts. His commissioned work was outstanding, and proved to be of the same quality as decorative paintings.
As one of the leading Art Nouveau architects, Hector Guimard, a prominent French artist, is credited for defining and presiding over the widespread use of Art Nouveau. Guimard is famous for designing the architectural masterclass that is the Paris subways.
Gaudi designed most of the eye-catching structures and Art Nouveau buildings in Catalonia, the most famous of them all being the Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona. Gaudi took a lot of inspiration from nature, and loved using organic shapes in his work.
Applications of Art Nouveau
Here are some examples of the many ways that artists can use Art Nouveau in modern design.
The introduction of Art Nouveau served to advance architectural techniques. Art Nouveau helped architects design structures that incorporated exposed iron and glass, making for an eye-catching spectacle. These structures were highly stylised, and also costly to build.
Art Nouveau style brought about several new printing technologies. Therefore, graphic designers recognise the contribution of Art Nouveau to the advancement of visual design techniques.
One of the breakthroughs of Art Nouveau is the discovery of colour lithography. This is a printing process in which a flat surface is treated, causing it to repel ink except where printing is required. The discovery made art accessible to the masses, as it was no longer only available in museums, galleries, and salons.
French designers incorporated Art Nouveau into glass art, after conducting numerous experiments while searching for a unique opacity and transparency. This new technique grew fast, moving to America from France. Artist Louis Comfort Tiffany became famous for Tiffany-style lamps with glass shades featuring detailed floral themes.
Many great and fine arts painters used Art Nouveau style to produce memorable paintings. Other design movements, such as symbolism, were also popular in Europe at the time.
Having flourished in Europe and America in the late 19th century, Art Nouveau remains a popular decorative style of art. It’s widespread use brought about the recognition of all forms of art, and not just paintings and sculptures. This change paved the way for equal opportunities for artists of all forms. The introduction of Art Nouveau also had a significant impact on numerous applications such as architecture, paintings, glass art, and interior design.
Does your home have elements of Art Nouveau design?