Naturalistic Sensuous Lines from Rococo to Art Nouveau
Emile Galle, Lamp, circa 1900The essence of Art Nouveau style (1895-1910) is described by naturalistic sensuous lines derived from vegetal curves and willow leaves, subtle light, feminine figures and curly hair, fluent dresses and attitudes, twisting waves and evanescent smoke, but also by controlled lines, geometric details, colorful new shapes. And also Art Nouveau was inspired by the idea of "total art". These characteristics are also seen in the essence of Rococo style. Some critics interpret the Art Nouveau style as a turn-of-the-centnry reinvention of the Rococo.
The movement's inspiration was pastoral and earthly by nature. Art Nouveau shares the naturalism with Rococo in different dimensions. Generally said, Naturalism in art refers to the depiction of realistic objects in a natural setting. In this context, Naturalism began in the early Renaissance, and developed itself further throughout the Renaissance, such as with the Florentine School.
Naturalism is the generic term for Art Nouveau, Organic Architecture and Expressionism of which styles overlap one another and were often only a stage in an architects working span.
It all started in 1861 in England, the most industrialized country at the time, where William Morris in collaboration with other artists, created the Arts and Crafts Movement as a reaction to the mid-19th-century artistic styles. Following socialist ideas, they wanted an art for everyone, all objects being of beauty and of use and had to be handmade. They did not completely succeed, as hand production was too expensive for the masses, but schools, exhibitions and magazines largely diffused those ideas and they created a favourable environment for the birth of Art Nouveau.
Many artists, architects, designers and intellectuals in all forms of decorative and visual arts, as well as cultural and avant-garde fields, explored the idea to create an "art of modern life".
In 1893, greatly influenced by the ideas of Morris, a young Belgian Architect Victor Horta , began to plan the first important house to be built in Art Nouveau Style : la Maison Tassel.
In 1894, also in Brussels, Henri van de Velde published the pamphlet "le Déblaiement d’Art", in which he developed new and nearly revolutionary ideas relating to fine arts and decorative arts, whereas architecture and interior design had to rise to the status of a total work of art. A year later in 1895, in Paris, the pioneer city of so many world affecting art forms, the name of the Movement -Art Nouveau- was finally settled in the French language. In particular because of the art gallery "La Maison de l'Art Nouveau", which was opened as a showroom for the new art by a Japanese art collector, Siegfried Bing. Paris added also a touch of glamour to Art Nouveau with the "Divine" Sarah Bernhardt and her protégés: Alfons Mucha and jewellery and perfume bottles designer René Lalique.
Between 1892 and 1897, the Symbolism Movement flourished in France and Belgium, whereas painters such as Odilon Redon and Ferdinand Knopf explored mystical and metaphysical themes, and they deeply influenced Art Nouveau artists and designers, such as the illustrator Alfons Mucha or the glassware designer Emile Gallé.
A wider attention was brought out to Art Nouveau during the World Exhibition held in Paris in 1900 and by the opening of its subway "le Metropolitain", the entrances of which were created by French architect-designer Hector GUIMARD. At the beginning of the new century, the expansion of Art Nouveau was massive in Western Europe, it developed especially in the provincial cities, as capital cities resisted to the new art, in Glasgow more than London, in Darmstadt or Munchen more than Berlin, Nancy more than Paris, Barcelona, Milan, but also in Prague, Vienna, Helsinki and of course Brussels. The works and aesthetics of artists-designers such as the painter Gustav KLIMT and the architect Josef HOFFMANN, the designer Josef Maria Joseph Maria OLBRICH in Austria; the Scottish architect Charles Rennie MACKINTOSH; the "visionary" Catalan architect Antoni GAUDÍ I CORNET; the Spanish fashion designer established in Italy Mariano FORTUNY Y MADRAZO; the German illustrator Otto Eckmann and the architect Peter Behrens; the originator of the ornamental Floreale style Giuseppe Sommaruga or designer Carlo Bugatti in Italy, and many others, were broadly exposed on the international cultural scenes and their styles became widely known.
The Art Nouveau Movement reached at a later stage the cities of Chicago Boston and New York in northern United States, where Louis Comfort TIFFANY is considered the only original Art Nouveau artist in the decorative field and Louis Sullivan in architecture, is considered the precursor of America's greatest architect, Frank Lloyd WRIGHT.
The First World War (1914-1918) marked the end of the Art Nouveau style.
The world had changed and with it the mentalities.
The elegance, sensuality, flamboyance of Art Nouveau was going to be substituted by more rational styles as Art Deco and Bauhaus all influenced by one of the major cultural and artistic movements of the 20th-century.