Society & Culture & Entertainment History

Art Nouveau Definition & Characteristics


    • The term "Art Nouveau" was first coined in 1895 by Samuel Bing, the proprietor of the Parisian gallery, L'Art Nouveau. According to author Jeremy Howard, Bing was influenced by the French Rococo movement of the 18th century and concentrated on the production and display of art that was graceful, elegant and created a harmony of color and line. Bing showcased work by some of the movement's leading names, such as Henri Sauvage and Rene Lalique. At the World's Fair in Paris in 1900, the Art Nouveau style was officially launched onto the European stage and was seen by 51 million visitors.


    • Nature was the single biggest influence on the Art Nouveau style. Highly-stylized flowers with intertwined stems and leaves, birds and insects are major features of the style. Flat, elongated or curved lines are another major feature of the style and led to the French nickname for Art Nouveau, "The Noodle Style." The Raphaelite female form with long flowing hair is another characteristic of Art Nouveau. Popular Art Nouveau materials include iridescent glass, silver and semi-precious stones, as the movement opted for hand-crafted pieces rather than machine manufacture.

    Art Nouveau in Europe

    • Art Nouveau was widespread in the modern European centers of industry, like Paris, Brussels, Glasgow and Vienna. Although each city had its own interpretation of the Art Nouveau style, they all shared similar ideas and goals, according to the National Gallery of Art. Highly-stylized plant forms with linear lines, for example, were common themes across Europe. In Germany and Italy, the Art Nouveau style was found in tapestry and textile work, such as the Five Swans by Otto Eckmann and in the work of Italian designers Carlo Bugatti and Agostino Laura.

    Art Nouveau in America

    • The cities of New York and Chicago were heavily influenced by Art Nouveau. Aided by the patronage of financiers and industrialists, museums and galleries flourished in the style across New York. Louis Comfort Tiffany, the most prominent face of the Art Nouveau movement in New York, used highly advanced glass technology to create distinctive pieces celebrating the natural world. After Chicago's great fire in 1871, the city was rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style. The skyscrapers designed by Louis Sullivan were inspired by nature and Celtic Art and the buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright introduced stained glass and a Japanese influence to the city.

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