Movements Throughout History - Art Nouveau

The Art Nouveau signs of the Paris metro.
The Art Nouveau signs of the Paris metro.

Art Nouveau was a style of art and architecture popular between the 1890s and early 1900s. The style was inspired by nature and structure, particularly that of plants and flowers. The movement embraced architecture, interior design, and decorative arts particularly lighting, household utensils, and furniture. Art Nouveau carries the philosophy that art must be a way of life. The movement has its origin in Britain in the Arts and Crafts Movement which was founded by William Morris. The growing technology in printing allowed the art movement to reach the global audience faster than it was anticipated. However, by 1910 Art Nouveau was beginning to fall out of style.


Art Nouveau architecture was adopted as an alternative to the eclectic style which was common throughout Europe in the second half of the 19th century. Art Nouveau architecture was expressed through the decoration of buildings. The buildings were decorated with ornaments in a curving form based on flowers, plants, and animals. The Art Nouveau architectural style first appeared in hotels in Brussels including Hotel Tassel and Hotel Solvay. The furniture and interior decorations of the hotel (including even the carpet) were all Art Nouveau styled. In Paris, Art Nouveau was adopted as a reaction to the strict regulations that was imposed on building facades. The architectural style spread from Belgium and France to the rest of Europe adopting different names and characteristics in the various countries. Art Nouveau architecture reached its peak in 1910 but declined significantly at the beginning of the First World War with Art Deco taking its place.

Visual Art

Graphic art and painting flourished in the era of the Art Nouveau due to the new technologies of printing and painting. Art no longer had its place only in the galleries but also in magazines and on walls. The graphics associated with the period depicted women as a symbol of modernity, glamor, and beauty. Some of the leading graphic artists during the Art Nouveau period include Aubrey Beardsley, Eugene Grasset, Jules Cheret, and Henri de Toulouse. The Art Nouveau painters were also associated with other art movements that coincided with the Art Nouveau period including the Symbolists and Nabis.


Art Nouveau influenced the whole landscape of culture including music. The style is highlighted in music by the freedom in musical composition and search for originality rather than beauty. Art Nouveau is found in the expression of the music of Debussy, Satie, and Ravel among other artists. Music composers during this period favored rich texture in orchestration. The Strong National feeling is common in the music that was composed during this period. The musical Art Nouveau did not have a proper school with musicians categorized by the period in which they existed. Therefore, the criteria of including musician into the movement are diverse.


Art Nouveau movement was a short-lived movement and was overtaken by the large scale embrace of modernism. Critics of the movement argue that by focusing on nature, the artists limited their choices of creativity.


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