Art Nouveau is an international style of art, architecture and applied art, especially the decorative arts, that was most popular between 1890 and 1910.
The new art movement had its roots in Britain, in the floral designs of William Morris, and in the Arts and Crafts movement founded by the pupils of Morris. Early prototypes of the style include the Red House of Morris (1859), and the lavish Peacock Room by James Abbott McNeill Whistler. The new movement was also strongly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite painters, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones, and especially by British graphic artists of the 1880s.
The first Art Nouveau houses, the Hôtel Tassel by Victor Horta and the Bloemenwerf house by Henry Van de Velde, were built in Brussels in 1893-1895. Both Horta and Van de Velde designed not only the houses, but also all of the interior decoration, furniture, carpets, and architectural details.
Horta, an architect with classical training, designed the residence of a prominent Belgian chemist, Tassel, on a very narrow and deep site. The central element became the stairway, beneath a high skylight. The floors were supported by slender iron columns like the trunks of the trees. The mosaic floors and walls were decorated with delicate arabesques in floral and vegetal forms, which became the most popular signature of Art Nouveau.
Art Nouveau architecture was a reaction against the eclectic styles which dominated European architecture in the second half of the 19th century. It was expressed through decoration; the buildings were covered with ornament in curving forms, often based on flowers, plants or animals; on butterflies, peacocks, swans, irises, cyclamens, orchids and water lilies. Facades were asymmetrical, and often decorated with polychrome ceramic tiles. The decoration often suggested movement; there was no distinction between the structure and the ornament.
The style first appeared in Brussels the Hotel Tassel (1894) and Hotel Solvay (1900) of Victor Horta. In all of these houses, the architects also designed the furniture and the interior decoration, down to the doorknobs and carpeting. In 1899, based on the fame of the Castel Beranger, Guimard received a commission to design the entrances of the stations of the new Paris Metro, which opened in 1900.
Furniture design in the Art Nouveau period was closely associated with the architecture of the buildings the architects often designed the furniture, carpets, light fixures, doorknobs, and other decorative details. The furniture was also often complex and expensive; a fine finish, usually polished or varnished, was regarded as essential, and continental designs were usually very complex, with curving shapes that were expensive to make.
The last part of the 19th century saw many technological innovation in the manufacture of ceramics, particularly the development of high temperature porcelain with crystallised and matte glazes, At the same time, several lost techniques, such as oxblood glaze, were rediscovered. Art Nouveau ceramics were also influenced by traditional and modern Japanese and Chinese ceramics, whose vegetal and floral motifs fitted well with the Art Nouveau style. In France, artists also rediscovered the traditional grés methods and reinvented them with new motifs. Ceramics also found an important new use in architecture; Art Nouveau architects including Jules Lavirotte and Hector Guimard began to decorate the facades of buildings with ceramic tiles, many of them made by firm of Alexandre Bigot, giving them a distinct Art Nouveau sculptural look. In the Art Nouveau ceramics quickly moved into the domain of sculpture and architecture
Textiles and wallpapers were an important vehicle of Art Nouveau from the beginning of the style, and an essential element of Art Nouveau interior design. In Britain, the textile designs oWilliam Morris had helped launch the Arts and Crafts Movement and then Art Nouveau.
Art Nouveau buildings have many of these features:
- Asymmetrical shapes
- Extensive use of arches and curved forms
- Curved glass
- Curving, plant-like embellishments
- Stained glass
- Japanese motifs
Examples of Art Nouveau:
- The Wainwright Building in St. Louis, Missouri, by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler
- Wagner Villa II, 1912 by Otto Wagner
- Parque Güell in Barcelona, Spain by Antoni Gaudí
- Majolika Haus in Vienna, Austria by Otto Wagner, 1898-1899
- The Marquette Building in Chicago, Illinois, by William Holabird and Martin Roche with Coydon T. Purdy
- The Municipal House in Prague, Czech Republic
- Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Rail Station in Vienna by Otto Wagner, 1898-1900
- Museum of Applied Arts and Lindenbaum House, Budapest, Hungary
- Secession Building by Joseph Maria Olbrich in Vienna, Austria, 1897-1898
- Postal Savings Bank in Budapest, Hungary
- Austrian Postal Savings Bank, Vienna, Austria by Otto Wagner, 1903-1912
- Church of St. Leopold in Vienna, Austria, by Otto Wagnerm 1904-1907
- Casa Milà Barcelona, by Antoni Gaudí, 1906 to 1910
- Casa Josep Batlló in Barcelona, Spain, by Antoni Gaudí, 1904 to 1906
Art Nouveau is seen more as a stylistic choice than binding philosophy of art, in that many Art Nouveau designs or pieces are representative or reminiscent of natural forms. As a result, curves and organic forms are often incorporated, or form the basis for work in this style.