Art Nouveau Posters
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 core of the new style 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.
Art Nouveau's use of new forms and freedom from imitation of historical styles marked it as an early step in modernist design. Sources of Art Nouveau included the Arts and Craft movement, Japanese woodblock design or "Japonisme", and Pre-Raphaelite painting. Another influence was the Symbolist movement, which emphasized the spiritual and sensual in opposition to the increasingly scientific bias of the new century.
The poster craze of the 1890s, called the Belle Epoque, witnessed the rapid spread of the new art form 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.
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.