Mataloni, Giovanni. Incandescenza a Gas, 1895
Biscuits Lefevre-Utile, 1897
Steinlen, Theophile Alenandre. Chat Noir/Ce Soir, 1896
Art Nouveau, or "New Art" was the leading international decorative style which began around 1890 and continued until World War I. Known as Jugendstil ("Young Style") in Germany and Stile Liberty in Italy, Art Nouveau featured an organic, flowing line which took its inspiration from nature.
The major philosophic thrust of Art Nouveau was its rejection of industrial society and the wretched working conditions and shoddy goods which accompanied it. In all of the arts and crafts, from architecture and furniture, to graphics and consumer items, designers turned instead to the beauty of nature for inspiration.
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Art Nouveau's use of new forms and freedom from imitation of historical styles marks the movement as an early step in modernist design. Sources of Art Nouveau included the Arts and Craft movement (the ideas of John Ruskin and William Morris), Japanese woodblock design (Japonisme), and Pre-Raphaelite painting. Another influence was the Symbolist movement, which emphasized the spiritual and sensual in opposition to the scientific, which was increasingly pervasive in the new century.
Art Nouveau Poster History
The poster craze of the 1890s, called the Belle Epoque, witnessed the rapid evolution and spread of the poster to all of Europe and America. Art Nouveau caught on quickly after Alphonse Mucha created his first masterpiece for Sarah Bernhardt in late 1894. Prominent artists included Orazi and de Feure in France, Livemont and Toussaint in Belgium, Hohenstein and Metlicovitz in Italy, Bradley and Penfield in America, Toorop and van Caspel in Holland, Beardsley in England, and Klimt and Moser in Austria.
Art Nouveau ultimately lost its meaning as industrial society developed in the early Twentieth Century. By World War I, the style had become a naive anachronism in a world of industrial complexities and destructive force, giving way to more relevant decorative movements.
The term Art Nouveau is often used more broadly to include other related styles of the Belle Epoque, from the Rococo Revival style of Cheret, the Post-Impressionism of Toulouse-Lautrec, to the Arts and Crafts style of Roland Holst and the Amsterdam School. In order to simplify matters, we have followed this convention.