Art Nouveau antidote to mass production and consumerism

Art Nouveau refers to a style of architecture as well as commercial and decorative art. It was introduced toward the end of the 19th century.

It has been said about fashion today that “everything old is new again.” This is the case with Art Nouveau. The French term “new art” refers to the style of architecture and commercial and decorative art that was introduced at the end of the 19th century. The style has been out of favour for a while. Still, the interest in Art Nouveau has revived and is now experiencing a surge in popularity.

Although the Art Nouveau style was initially thought to be “modern,” it was adapted from old styles and art forms, including Gothic and Rococo. Japanese woodblock prints, with curved lines, patterned surfaces and contrasting vaults, also inspired by Art Nouveau, as did Persian pottery and ancient Roman glass.

Art Nouveau is the forerunner of twentieth-century cultural movements such as Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism and Art Deco. The style took its name from the Paris shop, La Maison de l’Art Nouveau, owned by the German, Siegfried Bing, an art connoisseur known as the ” Father of Art Nouveau.

Bing’s shop was one of the leading outlets for works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, René Lalique, Emile Gallé, Eugene Gaillard and George DeFeure-all of whom would have become artists of the Art Nouveau tradition.

Art Nouveau should not be confused with Art Deco, a decorative and architectural style from 1925 to 1940 characterised by geometric designs, bold colours and the use of plastic and glass. The Art Nouveau movement, which dates from around 1880 to 1910, is highlighted by a brilliantly diverse array of curving lines and intricate patterns and motifs taken primarily from nature.

Ménages d'artistes; Le Maître, 1890. Artist George Auriol.
Ménages d’artistes; Le Maître, 1890. Artist George Auriol. (Photo by Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images)

Examples included etched and enamelled flowers and leaves, morning glories and stems of plants, and inlaid irises. Art Nouveau also found a rich expression in mantelpiece clocks, with craftsmen such as Maurice Dufrene incorporating asymmetrical lines and organic motifs seen in other movements.

Art Nouveau style Thonet chaise longue with adjustable backrest.
Art Nouveau style Thonet chaise longue with adjustable backrest. Austria, the 19th century. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Art Nouveau originated in England and spread quickly across Europe and the United States. However, France’s contribution to the movement was perhaps the most profound. Several key developments in the formation of Art Nouveau took place in Paris, at the time the most important artistic centre in Europe. Paris hosted the 1900 World Fair, which helped bring Art Nouveau to the forefront.

In advance of the World Fair, Hector Guimard, one of the most prominent Parisian designers of Art Nouveau, was commissioned to design the entrances to the new Paris subway system. They are among the most famous icons of the Art Nouveau style, thanks to their graceful, organic style and the use of cast iron for both structural and decorative purposes. Each gateway “grows” like a plant stems to roof beams that look like transparent, open umbrellas.

The entrance of the Porte Dauphine metro station in Paris.AFP PHOTO PASCAL PAVANI (Photo credit should read PASCAL PAVANI/AFP via Getty Images)

Nancy, a small French town and home to the glass artists Gallé and Antonin Daum, actually had a more significant impact on the growth of Art Nouveau than did Paris. With the possible exception of Tiffany, Daum and Gallé produced the most famous and unusually beautiful and delicate glasswork of the Art Nouveau movement.

The School of Nancy, founded by Gallé in 1883, was the centre of the wealthiest floral and symbolic aspects of Art Nouveau. The bowls, vases and pitchers integrated floral details; and the furniture made thereby Louis Majorelle and other skilled artisans had a symbolic meaning.

Art Nouveau was a response to the Industrial Revolution and the beginning of mass production. While some artists welcomed technological progress and embraced the aesthetic potential of cast iron and other new materials, others were deeply disdainful for the shadiness inherent in mass production and aimed at raising decorative arts to the level of fine art.

Art Nouveau is today in a privileged position. In the age of mass-produced everything, it is wonderfully refreshing to consider the care and craftsmanship of Art Nouveau design and the idea that artists like Gallé or Tiffany are continually experimenting with their methods of technique and creation.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing. https://amzn.to/3ElmSlL

More French design

  • Max Ingrand (1908 – 1969) French artist and decorator

    Max Ingrand (1908 – 1969) French artist and decorator

    Maurice Max-Ingrand (1908–1969) was a French artist and stained glass artist. He was captured by the Nazis during World War II but returned to France in 1945. In 1968, he established Verre Lumière, one of the first businesses to manufacture halogen lamps.Read More →

  • Clément Mère (1861 – 1940) French, designer and furniture maker

    Clément Mère (1861 – 1940) French, designer and furniture maker

    Clément Mère was born in Bayonne and active in Paris. He was a French painter, table-builder, artist and furniture builder. He studied painting with Jean-Léon Gérôme at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.Read More →

  • SS. Normandie Art Deco Palace

    SS. Normandie Art Deco Palace

    The ship, its decor, and furniture reflected everything stylish, sophisticated, forward-thinking, and French when it was launched in the age of grand style, a decade after the successful exposition of modern design at the 1925 Paris exhibition.Read More →

  • Raymond Subes (1893 – 1970) French metalsmith

    Raymond Subes (1893 – 1970) French metalsmith

    Raymond Subes (1893–1970) was a French metalsmith. He made ironwork for the oceanliners 1931 Atlantique, 1926 Ile-de-France, Pasteur, and 1935 Normandie. After World War II, he worked as a metalworker and became the head of Borderel et Robert.Read More →

  • Léon Jallot (1874 – 1967) French designer and artisan.

    Léon Jallot (1874 – 1967) French designer and artisan.

    Léon Jallot (1874­-1967), a scion of the French Art Nouveau, stood out within the movement as an ébéniste, or cabinet maker.Read More →

  • René Kieffer (1875 -1964) – French Bookbinder

    René Kieffer (1875 -1964) – French Bookbinder

    René Kieffer was a gilder at the Chambolle-Duru bindery for ten years. In 1903, set up his workshop at 99 boulevard St-Germain, Paris. Later he moved to 41 rue St-Andre-des-Arts and finally, in 1910, to 18 rue Seguier. A disciple of Henri Marius ­Michel, his work shifted from classical forms to motifs in the Art Nouveau style.Read More →

  • Competition: C6 Herringbone griddle pan by Inga Sempé

    Competition: C6 Herringbone griddle pan by Inga Sempé

    The Herringbone pattern grill lines channel cooking juices to either of the two pouring spouts and the large power-grip handles optimise manoeuvrability. Read More →

  • Georges Dunaime – French Designer

    Georges Dunaime – French Designer

    Georges Dunaime designed lighting for E. Etling, the designer and engraver. His work included table lamps, torchéeres, and chandeliers made of silver, gilt, and patinated bronze with shades made of cloth, cut glass, quartz, marble, and alabaster.Read More →

  • Jean Goulden (1878 – 1946) French Artisan and Painter

    Jean Goulden (1878 – 1946) French Artisan and Painter

    Jean Goulden was a French painter, musician, and crafter who lived from 1878 to 1946. During World War I, he found Byzantine enamels near Mount Athos in Macedonia. His Cubist pendulum clocks were some of his best pieces. Only 180 of his items are known to exist.Read More →

  • Pierre Balmain (1914 – 1982) French fashion designer

    Pierre Balmain (1914 – 1982) French fashion designer

    Pierre Balmain (1914 – 1982) was a French fashion designer and the influential postwar fashion house Balmain founder. He described the art of dressmaking as “the architecture of movement,” and he was known for his sophistication and elegance.Read More →

  • Jacques Gruber (1870 – 1936) French Stained Glass artist and designer

    Jacques Gruber (1870 – 1936) French Stained Glass artist and designer

    Jacques Gruber (1870-1936) was a French stained-glass artist, designer, and teacher, born Sundhausen, Alsace. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, under Gustave Moreau. He was distinguished as a designer in the Art Nouveau idiom. Read More →

  • 40+ French Designers in the applied and decorative arts

    40+ French Designers in the applied and decorative arts

    The following posts are a selection of French Designers that I have posted about over the last year. French design styles incorporate the new and the old. It is bold and sophisticated. It is attention to detail, whether a brooch, a clock, fabric, or glass. Read More →

  • Concorde a design classic

    Concorde a design classic

    Concorde was developed jointly by British Airways and Air France. Concorde was the first and remained the only supersonic civilian aircraft to be put into commercial service. Read More →

  • Jean Schlumberger (1907 – 1987) French jewellery designer

    Jean Schlumberger (1907 – 1987) French jewellery designer

    Jean Schlumberger (1907–1987), one of the most accomplished artists of the twentieth century, produced objects of unrivalled beauty. He was a man of exquisite taste, a jeweller who created extraordinary jewelled statements with a feeling of depth and life. Read More →

  • Marcel Guillemard  (1886 – 1932) French Decorator & designer

    Marcel Guillemard (1886 – 1932) French Decorator & designer

    Marcel Guillemard (1886 – 1932) was a French decorator and furniture designer. He was born and professionally active in Paris.Read More →

  • Louis Rault (1847 – 1903) French sculptor, engraver and jewellery designer

    Louis Rault (1847 – 1903) French sculptor, engraver and jewellery designer

    Louis Rault (1847 – 1903) was a French Sculptor, engraver, silversmith and jewellery designer.Between 1868 and 1875, Rault worked in the Boucheron workshop on the Place Vendôme in Paris. At the end of the nineteenth century, he set up a workshop where he produced silver and jewellery in the Art Nouveau style.Read More →

  • Boris-Jean Lacroix (1902-1984) 🇫🇷 French Lighting Designer

    Boris-Jean Lacroix (1902-1984) 🇫🇷 French Lighting Designer

    Boris-Jean Lacroix (1902-1984) was a French Lighting Designer born in Paris. Biography Lacroix was aRead More →

  • Eric Anthony Bagge (1890 – 1970) French architect and designer

    Eric Anthony Bagge (1890 – 1970) French architect and designer

    Eric Anthony Bagge (1890 – 1970) was a French architect and designer. He was born in the town of Antony, near Paris.Read More →

  • Paul Poiret (1879 – 1944) – King of Fashion

    Paul Poiret (1879 – 1944) – King of Fashion

    In the early decades of the 20th century, Paul Poiret was a crucial figure in the French fashion industry, notably by adding a deep oriental flavour and rich colours to contemporary clothing. Read More →

  • Martine Bedin (b.1957) radical architecture and design

    Martine Bedin (b.1957) radical architecture and design

    Bedin was one of the founders of the avant-garde Memphis group in Milan in 1981. Also, she has worked as an architect, industrial designer and professor. Her work is held in many important museums and private collections. Bedin’s aesthetic is typically colourful and self-consciously kitschy.Read More →

2 Comments

    1. Author

      Thank you for taking the time to comment.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.