Art Nouveau Movement - Designs and Designers

The Art Nouveau movement which began in Belgium in the late 1800s moved away from known conformist styles to designs that advocated art for the sake of its aesthetics.

It was started in an attempt to evolve a style that had no links to the past and at its best, the movement represented a loud protest against period design norms.

A staircase in Alberta Latvia (1903)
A staircase in Alberta Latvia (1903) | Source

Designers and advocates of the movement desired a freer outlet for their new found style and reflected it in their architecture, interior, and furniture styles including fabrics, glass and other ornamentation. The movement was most successful as a system of interior architectural embellishments.

Art Nouveau is associated with curvilinear features with design principles based on irregular flowing lines of plant forms. Artwork mediums and forms included stone, iron, and glass. Ornamentation came in form of:

  • Slim vertical lines
  • Panels adorned with beautiful flowers
  • Curvi-linear shapes
  • Mermaid-like forms

Villa Berthe - Art Nouveau architecture in France
Villa Berthe - Art Nouveau architecture in France | Source

Architects, artists, and their masterpieces include:

  • Charles Rennie Mackintosh's design of Glasgow School of Arts - He was a renowned Scottish architect with a unique style that totally deviated from period architecture. His remarkable designs, including furniture designs and interior decoration, were noted for their perpendicular forms. This vertically orientated Art nouveau style became the hallmark of his works
  • Antonio Gaudi's Church of the Sacred Family and Guell Park in Barcelona
  • Victor Horta’s The Town House, built in Brussels in 1893
  • Henri Van de Velde of Belgian descent. He studied fine and applied arts and regarded machine as offensive, nuisance, and an insult to fine art. And just as William Morris did, he saw the machine produce forms devoid of finesse. He became the spokesperson for the Art Nouveau movement and the intellectual purveyor that set a basis for a new-found style of the creative arts.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh Art Nouveau Style Chairs
Charles Rennie Mackintosh Art Nouveau Style Chairs | Source

Features of Art Nouveau Designs

Art Nouveau style was based on ‘lines’ as they appears in nature and how they develop form. Sweeps of curved lines subsequently became a mark of association with Art Nouveau art, architecture, and furniture design.

For instance, chairs were designed with curvilinear arms, legs and backs, tables and cabinets had wavy legs and curved edges. Architectural features were styled after the 'flowing lines' phenomenon (the Belgian curve).

This curvilinear feature that resembles the flat part of an ellipse was majorly used for furniture forms and supports, and wall openings.

Art Nouveau movement was mostly popular in Austria, Italy, France and Germany, but Belgium (its 'place of birth') remained the primary source for artful ideas of the movements themes.

And though its supporters pursued its cause (a break from period styles), it soon became a period style itself and just like all period styles, Art Nouveau soon faded into oblivion.

Post Art Nouveau - How the Modern Art Movement Began

After the ‘demise’ of the Art Nouveau movement, new ideas were evolved and a new modern art movement was born, not by decorative artists of the time, but by architects and designers.

The ethics of honest furniture design and construction that was advocated by William Morris was re-visited again by a group of new 'visionaries' who formed the modern art movement.

And not unlike the Art Nouveau movement, it was a time to forget the old and begin all over again with new visual ideas of architectural styles.

The Bauhaus School and the Modern Art Movement

Just as William Morris‘s ideologies and style of the 1880's had an overwhelming effect on the Art Nouveau movement in France, it also had a strong influence on Henri Van de Velve, whose sentiments tended towards designing objects and materials for machine production.

He started a school of arts and crafts in Weimar, Germany. In 1917 the school was merged with the Academy of Fine Arts. The merged schools were re-named Das Straatliches Bauhaus Weimar (The Bauhaus School). It was founded by Walter Gropius, an architect.

The school of arts and technology became the consulting centre for the creative arts, industry, and trades. Its main objective was to merge crafts and fine arts into a study program where students can be tutored on how to create designs suitable for mass manufacture.

Modern art movement involved an understanding of machine technology to enable mass production and involved virtually all objects and structures ranging from rocking chairs and lamps to commercial buildings and residential houses.

The Bauhaus School lasted from 1919 to 1923 but its influence is still evident today as can be seen in the architectural, interior, and industrial designs that have a profound relationship to the school’s teachings and philosophies.

© 2011 artsofthetimes

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arizonasunshine profile image

arizonasunshine 5 years ago from Alexandria, VA

Wonerful hub! I love Art Nouveau. Do you think it has faded into oblivion when there are still many admirers? I think there will always be lovers of this stlye because it bespokes nature.


artsofthetimes profile image

artsofthetimes 5 years ago Author

True arizonasunshine, there are still many Art Nouveau admirers even today, and many still incorporate the style in their home interiors.

Thanks for visiting and for your nice comments.

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