What Is Art Nouveau?

Emerged in a period marked by the development of the industry and the experimentation of new materials, the Art Nouveau artistic movement was opposed to historicism, favoring originality and a return to handicrafts. In this context, it is portrayed as an attempt at dialogue between art and industry, revaluing beauty and making it available to everyone through series production.

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In force between 1880 and 1920, Art Nouveau was born in Belgium – outside the artistic avant-garde circuit – and was inspired by nature with the sinuous and asymmetrical lines of flowers and animals. Its application reverberated mainly in the design of interiors, products, fabrics, clothes, jewelry and accessories. Regarding the architecture itself, the “materials of the modern world” such as iron, glass and cement are considered, allied to the praise of the rationality of science and engineering. Traits that denote care with the idea of industrialization by the bourgeoisie.

Although Art Nouveau developed in different ways in the regions where it was inserted, some characteristics predominate in the works of the period, such as the use of organic forms; of asymmetric lines; the concern with aesthetics and with the decorative elements; presence of stained glass windows and mosaics and structures inspired by Rococó and Baroque.

Within architecture, one of its most famous exponents is the Catalan Antoni Gaudí who, despite relating Art Nouveau with other movements such as neo-Gothic, in his projects it is possible to perceive the prevalence of natural, asymmetrical and rounded shapes, with clear inspiration in the nature, as is the case of Casa Batlló. In it, the architect explores spatialities, patterns and fluid colors, resulting in a volume that abruptly contrasts with the rigid surroundings. These bold forms by Gaudí represent the essence of Art Nouveau, marked by innovative and unusual creations, so much so that in literal translation it means “new art”.

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Clássicos da Arquitetura: Casa Batlló / Antoni Gaudí © wikipedia
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Clássicos da Arquitetura: Casa Batlló / Antoni Gaudí © Ignasi de Solá-Morales

In addition to him, other architects became representatives of the movement, such as the Belgian Victor Horta and his houses built for the elite composed of carefully crafted iron balconies and capitals that take on plant-like shapes, or the Scottish Charles Mackintosh who followed a trend considered “more elegant” by Art Nouveau with the Glasgow School of Art project with a more abstract and geometric design.

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Victor Horta © Creative Commons user estebanhistoria licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
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Glasgow School of Art. Image © Flickr user stevecadman licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Although the length of the Art Nouveau artistic movement is considered ephemeral, its historical importance has had an inversely proportional weight, understood today as a fundamental moment of transition between historicism and modernism. In this sense, the movement became a synonym of sophistication and lightness in the scope of arts and architecture, combining the decorativism of winding forms with everyday utilitarianism.

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Cite: Ghisleni, Camilla. "What Is Art Nouveau?" [O que é Art Nouveau?] 13 Jan 2022. ArchDaily. (Trans. Simões, Diogo) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/974955/what-is-art-nouveau> ISSN 0719-8884

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