Art Nouveau is an artistic movement which began in the middle of the 19th century and continues to influences art styles in the present day. The movements name has also been referred too as; "Jugendstil", "Nieuwe Kunst", and "Modern style", but the term Art Nouveau is directly translated from French into English as, "New Art". This was due to the freshness and excitement brought about by the characteristic elements, such as the stylized form which took a lot of inspiration from nature and geometry. With a clear emphasis on the use of flowing line, which brings a sense of melody and romanticism to the works. Many of the figures who appeared within Art Nouveau were elongated feminine forms, dressed in long flowing robes giving them a fairy like presence and a sense of purity, captured through the crisp use of line.
No single architect, designer or artist epitomized the 'New Art' style, it was the response from multiple creators that caused Art Nouveau to have such a diverse and complex interpretation. The myriad of influences and interpretations from across Europe had the single purpose of defeating the established order within the applied and fine arts. A H Mackmurdo, who was known for his part in the Arts and Crafts movement, had a significant influence on the style of Art Nouveau by providing insight into the technical implementation of design. Mackmurdo's designs were very different in comparison to many European artists of his time. Many elements established him as an expert at his craft, firstly his use of simple lines and asymmetrical compositions, which were boldly rendered in black and white. As well as, his use of natural imagery and the way he manipulated form creating an abstract appearance. One of his most famous pieces was the Chair back (1883), which came before the Fin-de-siècle decorative movement, is renowned as a pivotal Art Nouveau influence due to the row of slender tendrils that capture movement within such a stationary object.
Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo, Chair, c. (1883)
Art Nouveau was prevalent throughout Europe, but especially in Glasgow, Vienna, Madrid and Nancy. Charles Rennie Mackintosh dominated the new art movement within the 1900s, as a young architect he introduced a highly distinctive style of decorative aesthetic into his building designs and their interiors. Which were decorated with roses, apple pips, trees and tulips. However, his way of working was mostly inspired by that of geometry, hence the use of bold outlines and box- line shapes, which became highly recognised within Art Nouveau houses and highly influenced the style of ornamentation in Vienna. Art Nouveau in Vienna was most popularly characterised by the artists Koloman Moser, Josef Hoffman, Joseph Maria Olbrich and Gustav Klimt. Gustav Klimt had one of the most influential styles within Vienna, using surface decoration, flowering curves and rich ornamentation. He used symbolic feminine imagery and is best known for his portraits of young women stood in front of highly decorated backgrounds. However, in Spain Gaudi is the most well known artist within Art Nouveau, taking the majority of his influences from nature he began to blend innovative structures with decorative effects. His most celebrated buildings take on the personification of living organisms with the smooth rise and fall of their walls, as in his opinion there are no straight lines in nature. Finally in Paris, more specifically Nancy, which was the area most caught up in Art Nouveau, the influential artists were Emile Galle and Louis Majorelle. Emile Galle, who became popular in 1880s, took inspiration from Japonisme which was closely linked to nature. He was passionate about the use of nature and it was his primary focus within his work and the majority of Art Nouveau furniture produced in Nancy incorporated nature, such as flowers, dragon flies and was centralised around a decorative theme. Galle spearheaded the drive for change, he worked in glass, jewellery, ceramics and furniture making all the while incorporating his decorative new art style into all of his works,
Overall, it is believed that Art Nouveau suffered in popularity because it was promoted in large parts by brilliant artists and designers scattered across Europe. Meaning its momentum as a movement was fuelled more by the achievements of the independent artist, rather than the success of the style as a whole. However, I find that Art Nouveau was a most interesting movement, which inspired such a wide variety of art styles, spread across Europe. In Glasgow and Vienna the style was more serious and restrained, but in Nancy and Spain there was an enthusiasm for the natural which was captured in every element, but each style was an act of protest against the traditional and the ordinary.
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Second year Illustration student at Cumbria University.