A R T  N O U V E A U
D E S C R I P T I O N


    • Art Nouveau


        This was a 'new art' which spread across Europe and America in the 1890s. It was principally a style of architecture and interior decoration (pioneered by Horta, and van de Velde) and flourished especially in Belgium and Britain, using flat patterns of writhing vegetable forms based on a naturalistic conception of plants rather than a formalized type of decoration. Cast-iron lilies and copper tendrils are still with us, as is furniture with heart-shaped holes in it. Ensor was associated with the creators of the style in Belgium, but he is much less typical than Morris, whose Arts and Crafts movement may be the progenitor of Art Nouveau. Better still, perhaps, was Beardsley, whose drawings appeared in the first issue of The Studio (1893), a periodical which helped to spread the style. The posters of Mucha popularized the style commercially (and still do).

        In Germany and Austria (Klimt) the movement was called Jugendstil, after the magazine Jugend (Youth), first published in 1896; in Italy, where it had a great vogue, particularly in ironwork and decoration - especially in Milan, Turin, Genoa and Mantua - it is known as Stile Liberty, after the famous London department store. The Spanish centre is Barcelona, where Gaudi pushed the forms to extremes undreamed of by its Belgian originators. The young Picasso was influenced by it.

    • Source: The Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists (Penguin Reference Books)


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Updated: 2006