Art Nouveau 1890-1910

Art Nouveau Furniture – Epoch in Perfect Beauty

The Art Nouveau movement began in France and spread throughout Europe, encouraged by similar ideas among groups of artists focused on a desire for quality craftsmanship and a reintegration of all the arts. The term “New Art” was coined by French artist Alphonse Mucha in 1889. Its concept was a synthesis of classical values and the new romanticism (the 1850s-1870s), itself inspired by English Gothic Revival, French Symbolism, and Flemish Baroque, all stylistic movements in European art. The symbolist movement of the 1830s is closely linked to the development of Art Nouveau.

 Because it emerged in a brief period of time in so many places, Art Nouveau was known by different names in different parts of Europe. The term Art Nouveau in France, Jugendstil in Germany, Glasgow Style in Scotland and in Vienna, this epoch is known as the Viennese Secession. In Great Britain and the USA it is known  as Modern Style and in Italy as Stile florale or Stile Liberty. No matter what this new style was called: It was always associated with an intellectual culture that wanted to lend decorative beauty to everything external. This is also particularly true for interior design if you want to see Art Nouveau style in its purest form, then visit the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Famous artists and artworks

  • Roura Meissner – Designer of the Women’s Room

  • Gustave Eiffel – Designer of the Eiffel Tower

  • Marie Laurencin – Designer of the “Spirit of the Times” – 1919

  • Henry van de Velde – Designer of the Imperial Ballroom of the Ghent Royal Palace

  • Walt Disney – Disneyland

The artists and designers who worked in Art Nouveau wanted to rekindle an appreciation of good craftsmanship in an age of growing industrialization and mass-production. They wanted to create art for everyday life, which is why Art Nouveau influenced decorative arts and interior design, arenas that brought objects into people’s homes and environments.

Artists who created Art Nouveau furniture, like Charles Rennie Mackintosh of Scotland and Hector Guimard of France, often worked in more than one arena of design. Several were architects who branched out into interior design and also designed objects like lamps, furniture, and other items for the home.

Art Nouveau furniture was popular but it never completely superseded other furniture styles. Why? It was expensive to create and required a high level of skill. The furniture’s most distinctive elements, elaborative curves and twists, had to be done by hand. Creating and carving those curving forms from hardwoods wasn’t easy. The result was a style that most people couldn’t afford. Art Nouveau fell out of favor by 1910, so it was relatively short-lived. But it proved very influential. Sometimes called the first ”modern style,” it fed into later art and design movements including Art Deco and Modernism.

One of its major goals was to break down the old distinction between fine arts such as painting and applied arts. The style’s ubiquity could mostly be viewed in interior designs, furniture, jewelry, graphic arts, glass art, and metalwork, among others.

Art Nouveau had a wide range of themes and ideas, but it can be boiled down to three major philosophical ideas: Joy of Life, Living in a Spirit of Harmony, and the Preservation of Nature.

 In other words, Art Nouveau aimed to be more pleasurable, more harmonious, and more in harmony with nature. The differentiating factor of Art Nouveau was the contrast between its ornamental details and its structural simplifications and irregularities.

Early works by artists belonging to the movement were the result of observation. It was common for the artists to seek inspiration by visiting the Art Nouveau museum in Brussels, Belgium. It has been noted that many of the best artists were shy and kept their inspiration a secret until they felt confident enough to exhibit their art.

Almost everyone has individual images in mind when they think of the Art Nouveau era. The epoch that marks the transition from the 19th to the 20th century and from whose innovative as well as elitist-elegant basic attitude important artistic impulses emanated.

Artists and designers began to create works using a combination of materials, colors, and shapes.

Beauty, restraint, taste and moderation: these ideals of Art Nouveau can be found especially in the unique harmony that characterises Art Nouveau furniture.

Made of noble materials in pure handicraft, Art Nouveau furniture is obviously indebted to the British Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century by William Morris and Philip Webb. It saw itself as a response to the increasingly industrial production of household objects – including furniture – and, in contrast, placed uncompromising emphasis on quality, utility and simple beauty.

Art Nouveau furniture, which features curving lines and organic shapes, was a result of ideas that merged nature, design, and craftsmanship.

Art Nouveau Furniture as an Expression of a New Age – Flower and Plant Inspired Ornamentation.

The striking features of Art Nouveau furniture are therefore flowing, decorative lines and floral ornamentation inspired by blossoms and plants.

In addition, there are figures symbolically interpreted as virtues, such as lions, eagles or owls, as well as geometric shapes that were applied asymmetrically in the design of Art Nouveau furniture.

Chairs in this period, for example, are often made of oak, walnut or mahogany and usually have straight, tapered chair legs. The typical floral, flowing lines are most often found in the design of the backrest. From stylised trees to symbolically interpreted flames, swan necks or cranes.Everything that contributes to a noble, sweeping decorative design of the backrest is masterfully crafted and thus demonstrates the perfect harmony of practical utility and the highest aesthetic standards.

In larger pieces of furniture such as cabinets or chests of drawers, the first thing that catches the eye is the large-scale floral ornamentation with geometric elements often applied asymmetrically. This applies in particular to fittings, but also to drawers or subdividing drawers.

– Precious, masterfully crafted woods, preferably oak, walnut and mahogany.

– Ergonomic design adapted to the movements of the body

– Plain ornamentation with stylised, floral elements

– Twisted figure of eight as an easily recognisable stylistic element typical of Art Nouveau

– Curved lines in the form of stylised water plants, magnolias, lilies or flames

– Asymmetrical placement of geometric decorative elements