Art Nouveau & Art Deco

Art Nouveau & Art Deco


Art Nouveau & Art Deco

Art Nouveau (1880-1914)

Art Nouveau has made itself know and present from 1880’s to 1910’s. The Art Nouveau style appeared in the early 1880’s and was gone by the eve of the First World War. For a brief, brilliant moment, Art Nouveau was a shimmering presence in urban centers throughout Europe and North America. It was the style of the age--seen on public buildings and advertisements, inside private homes and outside street cafés--adorning the life of the city.

Art Nouveau was a response to the radical changes caused by the rapid urban growth and technological advances that followed the Industrial Revolution. This movement walked under the flag of an art that would break all connections to classical times, and bring down the barriers between the fine arts and applied arts. Art Nouveau was more than a mere style. It was a way of thinking about modern society and new production methods. It was an attempt to redefine the meaning and nature of the work of art. From that time on, it was the duty of art not to overlook any everyday object, no matter how utilitarian it might be. This approach was considered completely new and revolutionary, thus the New Art - Art Nouveau name.

An artist should work on everything from architecture to furniture design so that art would become a part of everyday life. By making beauty and harmony a part of everyday life, artists make people's lives better. This approach has been represented in painting, architecture, furniture, glassware, graphic design, jewelry, pottery, metalwork, and textiles and sculpture. Advertising posters were welcomed into art. This was a sharp contrast to the traditional separation of art into the distinct categories of fine art (painting and sculpture) and applied arts (ceramics, furniture, and other practical objects).

Because of typical flat, decorative patterns used in all art forms, Art Nouveau obtained a nickname 'the noodle style' in French, 'Le style nouilles'. Visual standards of the Art Nouveau style are flat, decorative patterns, intertwined organic forms of stems or flowers. Art Nouveau emphasized handcrafting as opposed to machine manufacturing, the use of new materials.

In the United States, Art Nouveau evolved naturally from the craft tradition of the early 19th century. American furniture, glass, metalwork, and jewelry had long been adapted from European models. Travel between the United States and Europe fostered a continuous exchange of ideas, and by the 1890’s American designers were making significant contributions to art nouveau ceramics, glassware, and architecture. International expositions in the United States not only highlighted American products but also attracted European visitors who were curious about design trends emerging in this new marketplace.

Foremost among American Art Nouveau innovators were Rookwood Pottery of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Tiffany Studios of New York City.

Rookwood was well established by the 1890’s, producing a wide range of elegant pottery decorated with softly colored natural forms. Rookwood Pottery was founded in 1880 by Marie Longworth Nichols. Rookwood pottery's initial work demonstrated an Oriental and European influence. Throughout Rookwood's years they mastered such diverse styles as Victorian, Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts, and Art Deco.

From the very beginning, Rookwood pottery's production and quality standards exceeded virtually every other American art pottery manufacturer. As a result, Rookwood pottery achieved a greatness that was second to none. Rookwood was one of the few potteries to mark items as seconds for even the most minute factory inconsistencies.

In the early 1900's Rookwood pottery quickly moved into the arts and crafts and Art Nouveau styles. During this time, Rookwood introduced many of the more desirable and important glazes such as Iris, Vellum, Sea Green, Ariel Blue and painted mattes.

Around 1905, Rookwood pottery introduced its production line of pottery. Rookwood's production pottery was simply glazed and not artist decorated or signed. As with most of the American art pottery companies, Rookwood's best production pieces are its earlier examples. Rookwood pottery employed over 120 artist and decorators during its years of operation. Rookwood ended production in 1960.

Louis Comfort Tiffany

Louis Comfort Tiffany was one of the greatest painters and designers of American decorative art. He was born in New York in 1848, the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany. Charles Lewis Tiffany was the founder of Tiffany & Co. the highly regarded jewelry retailer.

Louis Comfort Tiffany, a man of fine tastes, was a very popular interior designer. He introduced his style and left his mark in the U.S. by redecorating a number of private homes and public spaces. Mark Twain, Cornelius Vanderbilt and, the presidential White House are listed among Tiffany’s clients.

Incredibly talented and creative, Louis Comfort Tiffany enjoyed a remarkable career. L.C. Tiffany made his most impressive mark on the art scene by designing stained glass windows, lamps, mosaics and other fine decorative jewelry. Tiffany's work was exhibited worldwide. At the turn of the 20th century Tiffany earned several prizes, honors, and international status at the Universal Exposition in Paris. Louis Comfort Tiffany was as skillful a businessman as he was an artist. Prior to being named the first Design Director of his father's Tiffany & Co. in 1902, he managed a number of interior design firms and decorative art companies.

Louis Comfort Tiffany was incredibly innovative and single handedly set the stained glass world on a new course. Tiffany came up with an idea to amalgamate bits and pieces of discarded glass thrown off from production of his stained glass windows to form beautiful decorative lamps. Tiffany's diverse collection of eclectic colors and techniques, known today as Tiffany glass, continues to be in a class of its own. Louis Comfort Tiffany was heavily influenced by Japanese art forms in which nature was front and center.

The glassware of Louis Comfort Tiffany probably constitutes the best-known American examples of Art Nouveau design. Using his patented Favrile glass (iridescent glass produced by exposing hot glass to metallic fumes), Tiffany designed stained glass windows, lamps, and a variety of other glass objects. The intense color, fluid organic forms, and innovative techniques incorporated in his designs positioned Tiffany as a leader in international art nouveau design.

Vase, 1893–96Vase, 1898 Bowl, 1899Lamp, 1904–15
Favrile glassGlazed porcelanious Enamel on copper Leaded Favrile glass, bronze


Bowl, ca. 19083-handled Celtic Vase3-handled Vase

Favrile glassold ivory glazed, 1904butterscotch flambé glazed 1904

The Impact of Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau represents the beginning of modernism in design. It occurred at a time when mass-produced consumer goods began to fill the marketplace, and designers, architects, and artists began to understand that the handcrafted work of centuries past could be lost. While reclaiming this craft tradition, Art Nouveau designers simultaneously rejected traditional styles in favor of new, organic forms that emphasized humanity's connection to nature.

Principal subjects are lavish birds and flowers, insects and polyformic femme fatale. Abstract lines and shapes are used widely as a filling for recognizable subject matter. Purposeful elimination of three-dimensions is often applied through reduced shading. Art Nouveau artifacts are beautiful objects of art, but not necessarily very functional.

As Art Nouveau designers erased the barrier between fine arts and applied arts, they applied good design to all aspects of living—from architecture to silverware to painting. In this integrated approach Art Nouveau had its deepest influence. Although the stylistic elements of Art Nouveau evolved into the simpler, streamlined forms of modernism, the fundamental Art Nouveau concept of a thoroughly integrated environment remains an important part of contemporary design.

Art Deco (1910-1939)

Art Deco was a popular international design movement from 1925 until 1939, affecting the decorative arts such as architecture, interior design, and industrial design, as well as the visual arts such as fashion, painting, the graphic arts and film. The structure of Art Deco is based on mathematical geometric shapes. It was widely considered to be an eclectic form of elegant and stylish modernism, being influenced by a variety of sources. Among them were the so-called "primitive" arts of Africa, Ancient Egypt and Aztec Mexico. It also drew on Machine Age or streamline technology, such as modern aviation, electric lighting, the radio, the ocean liner and the skyscraper for inspiration.

Although many design movements have political or philosophical roots or intentions, Art Deco was purely decorative. At the time, this style was seen as elegant, functional, and modern. Despite this utopian emphasis on luxury; Art Deco emerged in an era of economic slumps and depressions, social strife, hunger marches and the political battle between Communism and Fascism. It was against this troubled and traumatic background that Art Deco forged its own identity.

Art Deco was essentially a diverse style; its artists and designers plundering a diversity of historic sources. Simultaneously, however, it emphasized modernity, employing the latest industrial materials and techniques. It was this fusion of history and modernity that gave Art Deco its unique character. Ultimately, this world of exuberance, vitality and beauty was a world of fantasy, a world as escapist as any of the Hollywood musicals of the same era. Its legacy, however, is one of great beauty, craft and imagination. American Art Deco conveyed both beauty and strength in a time when economic depression left much of the country unemployed and disillusioned.

During its apex in the 20's and 30's, Art Deco style defined the mindsets and lifestyles of the times. Art Deco served as an interpretation of the social norms, expectations, dreams, desires, interests, fascinations, frivolities and spontaneities of the culture in which it developed. A redistribution of wealth, brought on by the end of darker times, paved the way for industrial progress. Women cut their hair, hemmed their skirts, and asserted their rights. Morale was at an all time high; the future was bright with promise.

Art Deco, which began as a Modernist reaction against the Art Nouveau style, is characterized by the use of angular, symmetrical geometric forms. Many public buildings were decorated in the Art Deco style, exuding nationalism through massive structures with great coloring, inspiring murals and strong sculptures. Art deco is characterized by sleek, streamlined forms; geometric patterns; and experiments with industrial materials such as metals, plastics, and glass. American Art Deco included all the decorative arts including furniture, flatware and interior design. The ornamentation focused on geometry, machinery, botany, nationalism and color. These ideals created architecture which was not unique in design, but in its powerful and beautiful ornament.

Art Deco represented the rapid modernization of the world. While the style was already widespread and was in fashion in the United States and in Europe, the term Art Deco was not known. Modernistic or the "1925 Style" was used. The name Art Deco was derived from the 1925 "Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs Industriels et Modernes", held in Paris.
Different types of wood and precious metals, tortoise shell, lacquer, egg shell, leather, a cross-fertilization of styles either imported from colonial empires and the Orient or borrowed from art history, all were the characteristic signs of this exceptional craftsmanship aimed primarily at a rich international clientele. It was an updated look based on very classical forms.

New York skyscrapers, The Chrysler building and Empire State Building were examples of 1930’s era of Art Deco style in architecture.

Art Deco experienced a decline in popularity during the late 30’s and early 40’s, and soon fell out of public favor. It experienced a resurgence with the popularization of graphic design in the 1980’s.

The Pythian 1927 Metropolitan Life Insurance CompanyOur Lady of Loreto Church North Building New York City Philadelphia, PA