In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a movement called Art Nouveau (the “new art”) swept through Europe. The pioneering effort of artists like Gustav Klimt and Alphonse Mucha fed the rapidly spreading fire of this elegant, unique and modernizing style of design. Art Nouveau began appearing everywhere during this period- advertisements, architecture, and of course through the more classical mediums of sculpture and painting. For spanning such a brief period of time, the Art Nouveau movement was incredibly influential.
While visiting Paris a couple years ago, I used the subway system several times. At the entrance for each station in Paris, there are beautiful gates designed in the Art Nouveau style. These were created by Hector Guimard in 1900 and serve not only as beautiful and functional landmarks, but they in fact were responsible, in a large part, for the popularization of the Art Nouveau movement during the early 20th century.
Beyond the deeply-satisfying blend of angles and curves in Art Nouveau lies a deeper story–the revival of true ‘craft’ in art. Much of the art created in the early to mid-19th century followed a well-worn (and admittedly tired) ‘classical’ path. It would seem that the art created during this time may have been motivated more by money than for the sake of art itself. I admire that the Art Nouveau movement sought to inject authentic and creative expression back into the art world. I believe it was successful, as so much ‘modern art’ has been shaped by the inspiring and unique work of Art Nouveau artists such as Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha, Gustav Klimt, and René Lalique (my favorite jewelry designer of all time).
The most intriguing aspect of the Art Nouveau movement is the way the style effortlessly marries reality with imagination. There is a stunning balance between the geometrical and organic elements in Art Nouveau: curves to angles, plants to stone, 2D to 3D, fantasy to reality, animal to machine…the list goes on. Enjoying the shapes and composition of Art Nouveau artwork offers me the space to really explore my own polarized influences and seek out that marvelous place where they overlap.
During my own design process, I find myself seeking out classic works of art for inspiration. I find that even the most subtle clues in these timeless pieces can scream out inspiration where only moments before there had been nothing but hope–something hidden in the geometric pattern of a Klimt painting or a unique curve in the border of one of Mucha’s pieces will invariably fuel my creative fire. For that gift I am forever in debt to Art Nouveau and its effortless union of nature and geometry.
Hi! Laurel here. As an artist and graphic designer I love nothing more than to learn about art history. I am inspired by the movements, styles, influences and the incredible minds that create these works of beauty. I hope to make this piece the first in a series of art history-inspired ramblings from yours truly…