Between 1890 and 1910, a style arose that was quite unique. Associated with a concurrent, similar style of architecture and furnishings from from England called Arts and Crafts, both these movements were reactions to unrealistic Romantic art and the industrialization of furniture and furnishings at the time.
Taking its name from the Maison de l'Art Nouveau (House of the New Art), an art gallery opened in 1895 by the Franco-German art dealer Siegfried Bing that featured the new style, Art Nouveau specifically concerned itself with sinuous, flowing designs from nature. This was originally inspired by the floral designs of English designer William Morris and his followers who developed the Arts and Crafts philosophy.
|Entrance to the art gallery Maison de l'Art Nouveau|
|Wallcovering by William Morris|
While the Art Nouveau style flourished around the globe, manifesting perhaps under different names, the general feeling was the same. Houses, hotels, wallcoverings, furniture, graphic arts, decorative textiles, light fixtures, jewelry, even Paris Metro stations...all were touched by the rounded fullness and loose organic lines of Art Nouveau.
|Graphic for F. Champenois by Alfons Mucha|
|A bedroom by Louis Majorelle, 1903 - 1904|
|Chair by Rupert Carabin, France,1895|
|"Dawn and Dusk" bed by Émile Gallé, France,1904|
|Dining room by Eugène Vallin, France, 1903|
|Doorway of the Lavirotte Building by Jules Lavirotte, 29 avenue Rapp, Paris,1901|
|Dragonfly Lady brooch by René Lalique, 1897 - 1898|
|Furniture set by Victor Horta in the Hôtel Aubeque in Brussels, 1902-1904|
|Interior of Hôtel Tassel by Victor Horta,1894|
|Lampe aux ombellesby Émile Gallé, France, about 1902|
|Light fixture by Victor Horta, 1903|
|Limoges enamel by Paul Bonnaud, France,1903|
|Poster by Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen for the cabaret Le Chat noir, 1896|
|Tulip candelabra by Fernand Dubois, 1899|
|Zodiac calendar by Alfons Mucha|
Perhaps one of the most complete and famous examples of Art Nouveau architecture and interior design is James McNeil Whistler's glorious "Harmony in Blue and Gold," better known as The Peacock Room. Created for British shipping magnate Frederick Richards Leyland's home in Kensington, London, the room is a dazzling suite in the Anglo-Japanese style. The focal point is a painting by Whistler, Rose and Silver: The Princess from the Land of Porcelain. The room became so famous--not least for the reason that Whistler and Leyland fought bitterly over the design of the space--that American industrialist and art collector Charles Lang Freer anonymously purchased the entire room in 1904 from Leyland's heirs. Freer then had the contents of the Peacock Room installed in his Detroit mansion. After Freer's death in 1919, the Peacock Room was permanently installed in the Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
Concurrent with Art Nouveau were other branches from other countries: Modern Style and Glasgow School in Britain, Jugendstil (or New Style) in Germany, Stile Liberty in Italy, Modernisme in Spain, Arte Nova in Portugal, Tiffany Style in the United States (from the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany), and most dramatically, Vienna Secession in Austria which we will explore in another installment.