What is Art Nouveau?
Origins and context
Art Nouveau is named after a Parisian shop (Maison de l’Art Nouveau), which opened in 1895, however the style defined in history books took place between 1900 and 1914.
Life at that time, just before the Great War, was simpler; a horse-drawn carriage was still the main mode of transportation and the bicycle was the latest fashion; most of the women did not work although all households had domestic help; electricity and telephones were available, but television and radio were not: the gramophone provided the internal multimedia entertainment. And for those who could afford it, the house was decorated in the latest style – Art Nouveau.
Two styles in one
The work of the Art Nouveau period (the Horta Paris metro sign, the art of Toulouse Lautrec & Klimt, the buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright, the mosaics of Gaudí) is clearly divided into two styles. However, despite looking at separate worlds, its essence came from the same place, that is, it was organic.
In France, Belgium, Italy, and Spain, the Art Nouveau style was curvilinear – everything seemed as if it woke up and grew as soon as I left the room.
The Horta metro sign in Paris beautifully represents the curvilinear Art Nouveau style – its organic swirls in the letters representing nature and growth. The idea of growing from seed to stem to plant can be seen in the flowing lines of many furniture and decorative items from this period. The furniture seemed to be growing naturally: handles made to look like tendrils; cabinet corners and fronts decorated with foliage and twisted and twisted balustrades to represent creepers.
The glassware also beautifully represented the natural forms of the style and Emile Gall and Tiffany produced some elegant and ornamental pieces: lamps, bowls, vases, and glass pieces designed for furniture. Both furniture and accessories flourished with emblems of nature: butterflies, herbs, birds and flowers.
Art and jewelry
The art world was dominated by the works of Mucha, Cheret, Toulouse-Lautrec and Gustav Klimt. Long flowing hair, intertwined lovers kissing and beautiful women were his subjects. In jewelry, you can see the same organic shapes; flower trail necklaces; Brooches Depicting Mermaids – There was a sense of poetry and romance in each piece.
In Germany, Austria, and Great Britain, however, the Art Nouveau style was distinctly rectilinear, with well-defined lines surrounding even the most delicate decoration.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s work – the iconic rose framed between strong black lines, high-backed chairs and industrial windows were trademark pieces and Hill House in Helensburgh, outside Glasgow, epitomizes its residential interior style.
The furniture was specifically designed to fit the interior (unheard of until then), which would have included recessed window seats, cabinets, armchairs, and bookcases made of woods such as cherry, walnut, mahogany, satin wood, and light oak.
The colors of this period were peacock blue, turquoise, emerald green, pale lilac, black and silver, white and pink. They were used together to give an ethereal look to the walls and quite psychedelic effects on the glassware.
The Art Nouveau style is still very present, particularly in Barcelona, in Gaudí’s work at Casa Batlló and Casa Milá, as well as in his unfinished cathedral. In Brussels, the style can be seen at the Hotel Solvay and in Paris at Maxim’s and the Vagenode restaurant. Visit Glasgow and enjoy an elegant cup of tea in the famous Willow Tea Rooms designed by Mackintosh and his wife Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh.