Early in the 1890s, a global movement known as Art Nouveau (French for “New Style”) was started that brought together two of the most powerful forces in existence: art and nature. Globally, Art Nouveau had a much greater impact than any preceding movements or styles. Getting inspired from the chaotic features of the natural world, this new style was evident in ceramics, furniture, architecture, sculpture, and other works of art such as applied art, decorative art, graphic works, illustrations etc. Even though there were many people that supported and helped Art Nouveau, only a small number of them were acknowledged and distinguished the movement internationally.
The article addresses topics such as an introduction to the Art Nouveau movement, general traits and characteristics, the philosophies of the architects, and their most renowned works etc.
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Art Nouveau Movement
In the last part of the 19th century, a whole new approach to interior design and architecture emerged. The emergence of Art Nouveau at the beginning of the 1890s was a result of the need for a liberating change in direction across the entirety of Europe, a desire to veer away from pre-set formulae based on pastiche of historical forms, and a pursuit of original ideas. It developed into a universal outlook and a style of fine art, applied art, and architecture that peaked in popularity between 1890 and 1910.
Art Nouveau marked the start of modernism in design (Modern Architecture). French for “New Style,” Art Nouveau became well-known because to Siegfried Bing’s famed Maison de I’Art Nouveau (House of New Art), a Parisian art gallery. The handcrafted works of past eras were at risk of vanishing as mass-produced consumer goods began to take over the market, designers, architects, and painters realised. Designers of the Art Nouveau movement resurrected this artisan tradition while also eschewing traditional forms in favour of novel, organic shapes that emphasised the interdependence of nature and humanity.
Conventional ideas of what defines art are defied by Art Nouveau. The international Art Nouveau movement, which started in Europe and North America and quickly spread to include all of Europe by the end of the nineteenth century, was greatly aided by Victor Horta and Henry van de Velde. It was referred to as Glasgow style in Scotland, Stile Liberty in Italy, and Sezessionstil in Austria. A well-known artist from each of these nations functioned as the cultural adaptation of Art Nouveau’s ambassador there.
Due to the fact that he blended elements of nature and religion into all of his works, Antoni Gaudi, the creator of the Art Nouveau style, attracted the attention and admiration that few others did.
Hallmarks of Art Nouveau Style
The Industrial Revolution had an impact on the Art Nouveau trend in art. With the help of breakthroughs like the decorative processing of iron, technology and art were able to coexist throughout this time. One of the movement’s defining characteristics was its preference for hand crafted articles over machine manufacture. Geometric patterns, flat decorative patterns, and representations of flora, fauna, and plants are all part of this asymmetrical art style.
Art Nouveau drew inspiration from a variety of sources, including mathematics, Islamic art, Japanese art, city art, and nature. In architecture, windows, arches, and doors regularly use hyperbolas and parabolas, and decorative mouldings frequently adopt plant-inspired shapes. Some of the more abstract elements of the Rococo style, including flame and shell textures, were chosen and revised by designers during the Art Nouveau era. What distinguishes Art Nouveau from other styles are its ornamental motifs, linear layout, and organically curved, flowing lines that drew inspiration from nature. The rich, vivid colours of the past have been replaced by calming pastel tones. The new dominant aesthetics, which have replaced painted and ornamental art, are architecture and landscape art.
The undulating, asymmetrical lines that distinguish Art Nouveau are typically inspired by delicate, sinuous natural components such as flower stems and buds, vine tendrils, insect wings, and more. These lines might have a powerful, repetitive, whip like force or they can be graceful and lovely. The following are the key characteristics of the Art Nouveau era:
The image of a woman draped in her long, flowing hair is the most well-known theme among the many recurrent themes in the Art Nouveau style. She is typically shown swimming or flying to symbolise her independence. The Art Nouveau movement’s sinuous interpretation of nature, which placed a focus on movement, desire, life, and the fresh vigour of new ideas, is strongly reflected in this erotica. It is referred to as the “whiplash line” in nearly every Art Nouveau design. One term for Art Nouveau is palingstil, which means “eel style” in English.
A vital source of inspiration and the ideal encapsulator of the central concepts of the new aesthetic movement, decorative plants were numerous. The stems, leaves, inflorescences, and fruit of trees, perennials, bulbs, and the as-yet-underappreciated herbaceous plants were among the most frequent motifs. Plants, animals, and people all have symbolic meanings that were each individually interpreted in the majority of works of art in addition to their literal, ornamental value.
Art Nouveau Architects
Only a small number of those who supported and contributed to Art Nouveau received honours and distinction, despite the fact that many others did so. Several architects, including Henry Vande Velde, Pierre Francastel, and Hector Guimard, represented it. Victor Horta and Antonio Gaudi were two of its key spokesman. Poland loved the work of artists like Józef Mehoffer and Stanislaw Wyspiaski.
The organic and the rationalist are the two main Art Nouveau trends that Pierre Francastel separates. The Hotel Tassel in Brussels, designed by Belgian architect and designer Victor Horta, was the first Art Nouveau building ever built. The Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, and Casa Batllo in Barcelona were three of Antonio Gaudi’s structures that greatly aided in the new style’s popularisation. The most recognisable Secession icons in the entire globe, they had organic facade shapes and decorative accents.
Belgian architect Victor Horta created the first Art Nouveau structure ever constructed. Horta, who helped establish Art Nouveau in the 1890s, eventually became well-known as one of his nation’s most talented and imaginative architects as well as one of the first to achieve international acclaim after Belgian independence. Horta went to Art Deco as his career started to suffer in the years after World War I. His well-known creations include the Horta House and Studio (1898–1901), which is now the Horta Museum, the Hôtel Tassel (1892–1893), the Hôtel Solvay (1898–1900), and the Hôtel Tassel (1892–1893).
- The Tassel House, Brussels: The Tassel House, often cited as the first Art Nouveau building. The central stair hall serves as the focal focus of the structure, similar to many of Horta’s renowned Art Nouveau homes. The flower-petal-shaped chandeliers that hang from the ceiling mimic the flower-like shapes of the thin pillars. From outside, it is easy to see the stair hall. A magnificent row of stained glass windows with watery blues and floral pinks erupt from the building’s foundation, an I-beam formed of riveted green iron that lies above a recessed main entrance.
- Horta Museum, Brussels: The Horta Museum, which served as both Horta’s home and office, has unique original characteristics as well as highly skilled craftsmanship. He created an interesting staircase décor using elements like wood, iron, and marble. Horta’s pursuit of maximum transparency and light, which was frequently challenging given the constrained building sites in Brussels, was a distinctive aspect in his residences and later his larger buildings. Large windows, skylights, mirrors, and especially his open floor plans, which let light shine in from all directions and above, helped him achieve this.
Antonio Gaudi is recognised for his innovative artwork. Gaudi looked to the natural world, which he considered to be God’s direct creation, to achieve this purpose. In his home Catalonia, he designed and erected some of the most avant-garde buildings ever, which have since come to embody the spirit of the region.
Gaudi is the most well-known and individualistic representative of Catalan Modernisme (Art Nouveau), and he has drawn and inspired numerous generations of architects, engineers, and designers. Although the Sagrada Familia may be Gaudi’s best-known creation, he also created other structures that included the same core concepts, such as Casa Milà (1905–1907), Casa Batlló (1905–1907), Park Güell (1900–1914), etc.
- La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona: The interior structural support, which substitute’s vertical framework resembling the support and appearance of trees for conventional columns, is one of the Sagrada Famlia’s most recognisable organic designs. The rope against the wall was holding it together. Gaudi moulded the Sagrada Familia’s gateways and several of his other works in the resulting hyperbolic shape. The ceiling was designed to imitate a forest canopy. The Sagrada Famlia’s staircase was modelled by the shape of a snail’s shell. In addition to expressing his love for Barcelona through the use of these local natural forms, Gaudi more significantly merged God’s creations into a sculpture that was devoted to him.
- Casa Batlló, Barcelona: Antonio Gaudi restored the Casa Batlló, a six-story residential building. Never before had an architect chosen a building’s framework, colour scheme, media, and overall appearance with such audacity. All of these decisions were motivated by Gaudi’s concern for the environment and his religious beliefs.
One of Casa Batlló’s most recognisable features is the bright, broad façade. More interestingly, there is something that has been called a dragon on the building’s façade. A dragon has been created out of the colourful roof tiles that resemble scales and is perched on the cornice. On either side of the windows, the bottom of the façade is spanned by two long, cream columns that resemble bones.
The ideals of classical Rome and Greece served as architects’ main sources of inspiration for a long time. But when contemporary architecture started to take shape, designers started to ponder what it might resemble, discarding all earlier architectural fads in the process. Numerous strands of Art Nouveau emerged, inspiring enthusiasts in the decorative and graphic arts as well as architecture across Europe and beyond. As a result, it has several different names.
Artists were inspired by geometric and organic shapes, combining them to create stunning compositions that resembled plant stems and petals. Later research revealed the potential impact of nature on architecture. Horta and Gaudi were two of the many artists who recognized the strength of these two forces and deliberately produced works that reflected them. They combined modernism and nature, which led to the birth of Art Nouveau, one of the most significant art movements in history.