by Yvonne Markowitz (Author), Elyse Karlin (Author)
“A new, imperishable beauty” was how the artist and architect Henry van de Velde described it. The late nineteenth and early twentieth-century European Art Nouveau jewellery embraced a modern style characterised by sensuous shapes, dramatic imagery, and rich symbolism. Many of the designers affiliated with the movement found inspiration in the pre-Raphaelites, Impressionists, and Japanese artists, rather than conventional jewellery. Designers such as René Lalique and Henry van de Velde and artists from the German Jugenstil and Austrian Wiener Sezession movements developed ornaments that reflected the spirit and independence of the moment, rejecting the strict naturalism typical of European decorative arts.
Natural motifs and the female form imbued their creations with vitality, sensuality, and dreamy mysticism. Their use of free-flowing line and asymmetrical format invigorated and set their work apart. But there was a fin-de-sicle edginess underneath the undeniable vitality of these works, which endows this time with inexhaustible fascination. Imperishable Beauty features all of the foremost designers and jewellers from this pioneering period, including nearly 120 ornaments from a single private collection—the finest of its kind in America. Paintings, prints, posters, and textiles round out the presentation, rendering it as rich and enticing as the aesthetic it represents.
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