My cart
No Items
» » Art Nouveau Style (1890-1914)

Art Nouveau Style (1890-1914)


Art Nouveau Panels by Mary Golay



The Birth of a New Style


The idea of creating a new art, in the sense of a new artistic form, appeared very early, at the end of the 18th century and preoccupied theoreticians and artists throughout the 19th century. It was Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741-1825), a British Romantic writer and painter, who introduced the new forms, premises of the intensive use of the arabesque and the curved line by the Art Nouveau style.


Art Nouveau - called Tiffany in the United States, Arts and Crafts in England, Jugenstil in Germany, Stile Liberty in Italy, is an international art style. Its popularity between 1890 and 1910 was a reaction against the late 19th century academic art.



Art Nouveau Aesthetic


Art Nouveau, an ornamental style of art, was aimed at modernizing design, seeking to escape the eclectic historical styles that dominated much of 19th-century art and design. Artists drew inspiration from both organic and geometric forms, evolving elegant designs that united flowing and natural forms.


Art Nouveau Mirror by Royal Dux


The emphasis of curved lines took precedence over color. The movement was committed to abolishing the traditional hierarchy of the arts, and was employed in architecture, interior design, jewelry, furniture, textiles, silver, lighting, fine arts and illustration.



Nature and the Art Nouveau


The core of the new style was its rejection of industrial society. In all of the arts and crafts, from architecture and furniture, to graphics and glass, artists turned instead to the beauty of nature for inspiration.


The English art critic John Ruskin placed nature at the heart of aesthetic and ethical life. For Ruskin’s followers, as for the Art Nouveau decorators, nature replaced historicism and proposed an universal language available to all. In the pantheistic theories, man was no longer separated from nature. Thus, Art Nouveau could mix human and natural forms, in a new vision of the universe. The "new art" had an increased interest in the natural world and a true cult of nature, studied in its most various forms.



Art Nouveau Table in Wood




Bronze 1900 Vase by Marcel Debut




Art Nouveau Inkwell by Karl Korschann


In France, Grassat defined the Art Nouveau style in his 1896 "La Plante et ses applications ornamentales" (The plants and their ornamental applications). The purpose was for him to find as many uses in design for different flowers and plants as possible.



Women and the Art Nouveau


Sources of Art Nouveau included Baudelaire and Mallarmé poetry. Another influence was the Symbolist movement, which emphasized the spiritual and sensual in opposition to the increasingly scientific bias of the new century. Art Nouveau honoured women, who were placed in erotic, mystical and occult situations. The woman was explored through posters, illustrations, sculptures, lamps and furniture. Among the most popular themes : the diabolical beauty, the sensual and the melancholic woman.



Bronze Vase by Marcel Debut




Art Nouveau Mounted-Lamp Vase



Art Nouveau Artists


Famous, the leading names of the Belle Epoque are known worldwide: Daum, Gallé, Mucha, Majorelle, Horta, Gaudi, Guimard, Lalique, Grasset, Bugatti, Thonet... But many other artists and decorators working around 1900 were drawn by the Art Nouveau ideals: Mary Golay, Émile Vernier or Marcel Debut.


Plateau Art nouveau signé Vernier



Porte-manteau perroquet par Thonet


These artists embraced modern methods and invented new techniques of painting, drawing, carving, porcelain and glass working. One of the most famous inventions of the late 19th century was the bentwood furniture by Thonet.



Art Nouveau Posters


The evolution of printing techniques, in particular colour lithography, led to the spectacular growth of large-size posters and the rapid spread of the new art form to all of Europe and America.


Color Lithographs by Mary Golay


The portraits, compositions and interior scenes were composed of dynamic, undulating lines, flat-colours and asymmetrical shapes. Each emphasized organic forms from the natural world.



The Notoriety and Decline of Art Nouveau


Art Nouveau was a worldwide "total" art style. The 1900 Paris Exposition was the high point for the développement of the "new art". In 1900, 50 million visitors from all around the world saw showcased Art Nouveau architecture, design, ceramic, glass, furniture and decorative objects.


After the exhibition, France remained the center of the movement. Art Nouveau style went out of fashion before the First World War, and was replaced by Art Deco in the 1920s.





  • L'Art nouveau : la révolution décorative, exposition Pinacothèque de Paris, 18 avril - 8 septembre 2013, Skira 2013.
  • Alphonse Mucha, exposition Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, 12 septembre 2018 - 27 janvier 2019, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux - Grand Palais, 2019.
  • Mylène Beaufils, "Étonnant Thonet : l'aventure industrielle du bois courbé", dans Le Temps des collections, VIe édition 2017-2018, Réunion des musées métropolitains Rouen Normandie, SilvanaEditoriale, 2018, pp. 85-99.