Art Nouveau – The Basic Idea

Art Nouveau flourished between 1890 and 1910 and the new art movement became known mainly in Germany under this name. It is named after the Munich art magazine “Die Jugend”. Outside Germany, however, the same art style became best known under the name “Art Nouveau”. Art Nouveau at that time had the reputation of being a young, modern and original movement.

Art Nouveau has its roots among other things in “Arts and Craft”. Arts and Craft is an English movement that responds to the industrialisation that is taking hold. At the beginning of this twentieth century, people felt an enormous growth in mass production, at the expense of traditional craftsmanship. The aim of Arts and Crafts is to preserve the tradition of craftsmanship.
Aesthetics for everyone

Art nouveau artists strive to integrate art into everyday life. Art and aesthetics should be present and tangible in people’s everyday lives. Art and craft should form a unity. The craft should be functional and also have the aesthetics of a work of art.

Art Nouveau artists pursue the claim that craftsmanship is a source of pleasure – both for the craftsman and for the consumer. Art Nouveau finds its expression in furniture design and architecture, in painting and sculpture, in the production of sculptures, as well as jewellery and glassware.

External characteristics for the art nouveau are:

decorative flowing lines
floral ornaments
geometric shapes and
Use of symbolic figures

Nature is a model and stylistic device for Art Nouveau artists. Art Nouveau artists derive forms, flowing lines and ornaments from this “imitation” of nature. Animals are used as symbols, e.g. lion, owl, and eagle. In reference to historical figures such symbolic animals stand for a certain goal or virtue.

Art Nouveau finds its strongest expression in painting. In addition to paintings, graphics and posters, many artists dedicate themselves to textile and book painting. Art Nouveau artists want to be inspired by old and past epochs of art, but without imitating them. Their works of art should first and foremost be unique and appropriate to their time. Art Nouveau thus differs from “historicism” – a style which simultaneously exerts an influence on art history.

There are various groups within Art Nouveau. The most important of these is the “Wiener Secession” under the leadership of Gustav Klimt. In addition, the Berlin and Munich Secession are active Art Nouveau associations.


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