Art NouveauPosted: May 8, 2011
1890 – 1914
Art Nouveau explored a new style in the visual arts and architecture that developed in at the end of the nineteenth century.
The Art Nouveau style appeared in the early 1880s and was gone by the eve of the First World War. For a brief, brilliant moment, Art Nouveau was a shimmering presence in urban centers throughout Europe and North America. It was the style of the age–seen on public buildings and advertisements, inside private homes and outside street cafés–adorning the life of the city.
At its height exactly one hundred years ago, Art Nouveau was a concerted attempt to create an international style based on decoration. It was developed by a brilliant and energetic generation of artists and designers, who sought to fashion an art form appropriate to the modern age. During this extraordinary time, urban life as we now understand it was established. Old customs, habits, and artistic styles sat alongside new, combining a wide range of contradictory images and ideas. Many artists, designers, and architects were excited by new technologies and lifestyles, while others retreated into the past, embracing the spirit world, fantasy, and myth.
Art Nouveau designers also believed that all the arts should work in harmony to create a “total work of art,” or Gesamtkunstwerk: buildings, furniture, textiles, clothes, and jewellery all conformed to the principles of Art Nouveau.
Beardsley’s flamboyant black and white block print J’ai baisé ta bouche lokanaan for Oscar Wilde’s play Salomé (1894), with its brilliant incorporation of Japanese two-dimensional composition, may be regarded as a highlight of the Aesthetic movement and an early manifestation of Art Nouveau taste in England. Other influential graphic artists included Alphonse Mucha, Jules Chéret, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.