Period Piece: Art Nouveau

I’m taking this intro to interior design class at the Corcoran, and it has been an absolute great joy of my week since it started in January! It has been wonderful to learn something new and completely different from what I do for my day job. One of my assignments for the class was to research a design era. I chose Art Nouveau. I knew nothing about it and chose it because it sounded rebellious — a new way of thinking. Well, it was indeed. The Art Nouveau movement started in the late 1800s and had an unfortunate short life — cut short by the First World War. It was a movement born in France (of course, a known trendsetter) and was spurred by artists who desired to break free from the structured hierarchy in the art world that placed fine art on a pedestal and left decorative arts biting the dust. They wanted to make art functional and functional pieces works of art. The Art Nouveau style looked to nature for inspiration–very similar to the Arts and Crafts movement, which was also taking place around the same time. Art Nouveau also was a reflection on modernity. The late 1800s, after all, was a time of great change and innovation. The light bulb, typewriter, and automobile were transforming how people lived, interacted, communicated. I found some images that reflected the elements of Art Nouveau style to share with you.

The sensousness of a woman's figure was always a subject for artists. Capturing the female form in Art Nouveau style also provided imagery for erotic theater and pulp pornography. Check out the absinthe ad (middle picture).

A distinctive element of Art Nouveau, often found as iron works or in stain glass like images above. This motif reflects the movement of...you guessed it...a whip. Or some sources refer to roots.

Art Nouveau breaks away from the linear as well as symmetrical.

Marquetry is the process of making a picture or patter out of different colors of wood.

Look familiar? One of these (the lamp) is the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany -- yes the founder of Tiffany Jewelry and everything else gorgeous (and expensive). He mastered the use of structuring stained glass on metal. Beautiful, isn't it?

If you look closely, these lamps embody Art Nouveau style..using nature-inspired figures...like a lily pad or frogs.

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