History of Art Nouveau
The term "Art Nouveau" stemmed from the name of the Parisian art gallery, called "La Maison de l'Art Nouveau", owned by the avant-garde art-collector Siegfried Bing (1838-1905), which showcased works created in the Art Nouveau style. The gallery's reputation and fame was considerably boosted by its installations of modern furniture, tapestries and objets d'art at the 1900 Exposition Universelle, after which the gallery's name became almost synonymous with the style.
At the same time, in Belgium the style was promoted by and La Libre Esthetique, while in Germany the style was popularized and promoted by a magazine called Jugend: Münchner illustrierte Wochenschrift für Kunst und Leben (Youth: the illustrated weekly magazine of art and lifestyle of Munich), which is why German Art Nouveau - along with that of the Netherlands, the Baltic and the Nordic countries - has since been known as "Jugendstil" (youth-style). In Austria, Art Nouveau was first popularized by artists of the Vienna Secession movement, leading to the adoption of the name "Sezessionstil". In fact, the Vienna Secessionists, like Joseph Maria Olbrich (1867-1908), influenced art and architecture throughout Austria-Hungary. In Germany, after the Munich Secession (1892) and the Berlin Secession (1898), many of its leading practitioners came together again in 1907 as members of the Deutscher Werkbund (German Work Federation).
Other temporary names were used which reflected the novelty of the style, or its ribbon-like curvilinear designs. For example, in France it was also known as "le style moderne" or "le style nouille" (noodle style); in Spain, "arte joven" (young art); in Italy "arte nuova" and in the Netherlands "Nieuwe kunst" (both, new art). The style was also named after certain of its exponents or promoters. For instance, Hector Guimard's Parisian Metro entrances led to the temporary name "Style Metro"; in America the movement was called the "Tiffany style" due to its connection with the Art Nouveau glassmaker and jeweller Louis Comfort Tiffany.
Evolution of Art Nouveau
The origins of Art Nouveau are unclear, although most art historians agree that its roots lay in the English Arts and Crafts Movement, championed by the medievalist William Morris, as well as the flat-perspective and strong colours of Japanese woodcuts. This idiom was reinforced by the wave of Japonism that swept through Europe in the 1880s and 1890s, and by the decorative painting styles of Synthetism (Gauguin) and Cloisonnism (Bernard, Anquetin) developed at the Pont-Aven School in Brittany. For more details, please see: Post Impressionist Painting (1880-95).
As a movement, Art Nouveau shared certain features with Romanticism, the Pre-Raphaelites, the Symbolists, and the Arts and Crafts Movement, although each differed in various ways. For example, unlike Symbolist painting, Art Nouveau has a distinctive visual look; and, in contrast to the artisan-oriented Arts & Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau artists readily employed new materials, and did not turn their backs on mass-produced or machined surfaces.
Connections were also forged between practitioners of Jugendstil and Celtic-style artists, notably in the area of abstract patternwork. Christopher Dresser's Unity in Variety (1859) - a treatise on botany for artists, was also influential. But it is Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo (1851-1942) who is often identified as the first designer in whom historical precedents were sufficiently subdued for the new mode to show clearly. Indeed, the earliest example of Art Nouveau was the variety of rhythmic floral patterns used by Mackmurdo in his book-cover for Sir Christopher Wren's City Churches (1883). His buildings, furniture, graphics and textiles derive definitely, though not exclusively, from the natural world, convey a strong sense of their materials, and are structurally elemental. Mackmurdo accepted a good deal of Ruskin's involvement with the social and economic conditions of art and turned eventually to the composition of political tracts. Whatever its exact origins, Art Nouveau benefited enormously from the exposure it received at international exhibitions such as the Paris Exposition Universelle (1900) and the Turin Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte Decorativa Moderna (1902), as well as individual outlets such as London's Liberty & Co and Siegfried Bing's "Maison de l'Art Nouveau".
The style has been said to end in the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928), a key figure in the Glasgow School of Painting (1880-1915). Painter, architect and designer, he was initially attracted by the creative freedom of Art...
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