What Is Art Nouveau

Those involved in the Art Nouveau, or "new art," Movement wanted to wrench art away from its classical forms and create a new type of outlook on art in its various formats. The movement lasted in Europe and North America from roughly the 1880s until World War I.

The Art Nouveau Movement sought to break down the barriers between all types of art, from the traditional, like paintings and sculpture, to arts and crafts, including jewelry, textiles, doors and wallpaper. In this, the Art Nouveau Movement may have succeeded, because both traditional art and nontraditional art from the period are remembered today as being representative of the Art Nouveau period.

What are the characteristics of an Art Nouveau piece?
Art Nouveau pieces have many curvilinear lines incorporated into their designs and are more organic, focusing on vines, flowers, leaves, insects, birds and, in many cases, women's bodies and faces.

As with any movement when creative human beings interact, there were not clean lines of demarcation in Art Nouveau. For example, the effects of the Industrial Revolution influenced the direction individual Art Nouveau artists took, although artists did not all go on the same path. Some artists embraced the new technologies that were created during the Industrial Revolution. Architects were particularly blessed to have innovations such as steel-reinforced concrete, electric lights and elevators and more ceramic tiling for decoration. On the other hand, some Art Nouveau artists disliked the changes that the Industrial Revolution brought to society and chose to seep their work in mysticism or ancient mythology.

Additionally, the Art Nouveau period did not start in 1880 and end with the advent of World War I. Some experts do not set the starting date of Art Nouveau until the 1890s, and artists and architects in some countries, such as Spain, were using Art Nouveau styles well after the end of the Great War.

Examples of Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau Artists:

  • Austrian painter and muralist Gustav Klimt

  • Henri Toulouse Lautrec of France, famous for his posters

  • Alphonse Mucha, the Czech printmaker and painter

  • British illustrator Aubrey Beardsley

Art Nouveau Architects:

  • Antonio Gaudi from Spain

  • Louis Sullivan from the United States

Art Nouveau Glassmakers:

  • Emile Galle from France

  • Louis Tiffany from the United States.

Art Nouveau is called by different names in different countries. For example, Art Nouveau is called Jugendstil in Germany, Stile Floreale and Stile Liberty in Italy, and Modernisme in Spain. When examining works of or books about art, architecture and crafts from the Art Nouveau period, do not be confused if the works look like they are Art Nouveau and are called Jugendstil.

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