An aesthetic style that spread throughout much of Europe and America starting in the late 19th century. In this article we will provide you the information about the characteristics of Art nouveau architecture.
Art Nouveau is an aesthetic style that spread throughout much of Europe and America starting in the late 19th century . This style, which is part of the modernist movements of the time, assumed regional particularities and received different names: Art Nouveau in France, Secession in Austria, Jugendstill in Germany, Liberty in Italy, Modernism in Spain and Modern Style in England.
Although it became popular over the years, it emerged as the aesthetic language of a high-net-worth bourgeoisie that wanted to differentiate itself from both the aristocracy and the rising lower classes.
Its first demonstrations took place in Brussels .
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Historical context of Art Nouveau
Between 1870 and 1914, Europe experienced an unprecedented period of peace since, during those forty-four years, there were no major international military conflicts. It was also a period of economic expansion as a consequence of the Second Industrial Revolution .
Industrialization favored an increase in employment and, therefore, in the economic income of families. Improvements in food, medicine and hygiene led to significant population growth and at the same time a phenomenon of urbanization. Thus an optimistic and industrialized urban society was formed that saw itself as modern, cosmopolitan and dynamic with great confidence in scientific and technological progress as a vehicle to improve people’s lives.
This period is often called belle époque because of the atmosphere of optimism and confidence in the future that characterized European society.
In this context, a series of artistic movements emerged that we generically call modernisms, among which Art Nouveau can be mentioned .
Characteristics of Art Nouveau
The main characteristics of Art Nouveau are the following:
- It is an anti-classical style, a break with previous styles. He questioned the historicisms, that is, the repetition of formulas legitimized by the academies, because he considered that they represented the imposition of the authority of the State. He replaced established structures with free, dynamic and natural forms .
- It is an ornamental style whose most frequent manifestations can be seen in architecture, decorative arts (furniture, tableware, decorative elements, textiles, bookbinding), graphics and jewelry. That is, in the artistic forms linked to the daily life of people.
- He proposed artistic intervention in urban planning to invade cities in organic forms, related to natural life and, thus, transform them into a pleasant, elegant, modern and cheerful space.
- It proposed the disappearance of the hierarchy between the major arts (painting, sculpture, architecture) and the minor arts (jewelry, decoration, graphic industry, etc.). He wanted the modernist language to encompass all spaces, from the design of cities to the minimal elements of daily life.
- The typical forms of Art Nouveau were the wavy, organic and flowing lines. Some of his inspirations were:
- Stylized and idealized forms of nature to obtain decorative and elegant lines. In this sense, an important influence on the aesthetics of the movement were the studies of nature associated with new technological advances, such as the botanical photographs of Karl Blossfeldt.
- Oriental elements, especially Chinese and Japanese, whose models and forms were freely reinterpreted.
- The Art Nouveau aesthetic was characterized by the asymmetry, irregularity and fluidity of the lines .
- They used malleable, colored materials and transparency such as glass, enamel, wood and metals.
- The structure and ornamentation of the objects were integrated , adapting form to function. In this sense, it was the necessary antecedent of other movements such as Art Deco and the Bauhaus .
- He sought the integration between art and industry , to massively produce products with an aesthetic design according to the parameters of the style.
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Architecture and Art Nouveau
Architecture was the area where Art Nouveau manifested itself most clearly. Some of its characteristics were the following:
- Search for stylistic integration of all elements of the building, from the exterior design to the light switches, floors, ceilings, windows, furniture, curtains, lighting, etc.
- We used the reinforced concrete , the iron and steel for its malleability to produce fancy shapes. Thanks to the combination of all these elements , fantasy effects were created , with an ethereal atmosphere and in some cases of instability.
- It took on its own characteristics in the different European cities. The variant corresponding to the architecture of Antonio Gaudí stands out in Barcelona, Spain, since his style incorporated the Spanish Moorish tradition. Gaudí’s buildings are often covered in colorful mosaics, many of them made from natural stone.
Representatives of Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau had numerous representatives in all areas of design and art. Some of them were:
- Victor Horta (1861-1946) : Belgian architect. He was one of the initiators of modernism.
- Hector Guimard (1867-1942) : French architect. One of the main representatives of Art Nouveau in France.
- Henry van de Velde (1863-1957) : Belgian architect, industrial designer and painter.
- Antonio Gaudí (1852-1926) : Spanish architect, representative of Catalan modernism.
- René Lalique (1860-1945) : French jeweler and glazier.
- Alfonse Mucha (1860-1939) : Czech painter, illustrator and designer.
- Franz von Stuck (1863-1928) : German painter, sculptor and architect.
- Gustave Klimt (1862-1918) : Austrian painter.