Art Nouveau

analytical Essay
3738 words
3738 words

Art Nouveau

When one considers the term “Art Nouveau,” what comes to mind most immediately is “images of a European-wide invasion [characterized] by the restless dynamism of organic form”(Silverman 1). For me it is usually the work of Alphonse Mucha– his mysterious women surrounded by the beauties of nature. Often my Art Nouveau fantasies take shape in the odd fungal-shaped stained-glass lamps of Tiffany. Or sometimes they surface as the romantic Parisian posters I’ve seen at Pier One, advertising champagne or cats noir or bicycles or the like. But no matter what ones notion may be of what Art Nouveau looks like, there is a feeling that accompanies it that is at the heart of the style’s appeal. It is difficult to define or describe what that feeling is. Is it even fruitful to attempt a description of it? Irregardless of this, no doubt the people of 1900 had their own notions and feelings about the style, that were shaped by the events and influences of their own times. While Art Nouveau served as a stylistic stepping stone between centuries, it was also an embodiment of the sentiments of the time from which it came.

Art Nouveau is a style that is easy to recognize, yet hard to define. There are several basic identifying characteristics that classify a work as Art Nouveau, the primary one being the use of line. The lines in an Art Nouveau piece are always fluid and undulating, some critics have even described them as “whiplash”(Fern qtd. in Selz 22), quite true of the work of many of the practitioners of the genre. In most pieces, the effect is more subtle, but always evident. What sets apart the sinuous lines of Art Nouveau from those of other styles is that the line in Art Nouveau “becomes a twisting, living thing, enclosin...

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“Pierre Bonnard, France Champagne, lithograph (image).” Les Maitres des Arts Graphiques. 26 October 2004 <>.

“Power Macintosh G4 (2000) General Information.” 26 October 2004 <>.

Selz, Peter. “Introduction.” Art Nouveau. Eds. Peter Selz and Mildred Constantine. New York: Plantin P, 1959. 7-17.

Silverman, Debora. Art Nouveau in Fin-de-Siecle France: Politics, Psychology, and Style. Berkeley: U of California P, 1989.

“Utamaro’s Woodblock Print.” 26 October 2004 <>.

Weisberg, Gabriel P. “Japonisme: Early Sources and the French Printmaker 1854-1882.” Japonisme: Japanese Influence on French Art, 1854-1910. Ed. n. g. Somerset: Hilman Printers, 1975. 1-19.

In this essay, the author

  • Opines that art nouveau was a stylistic stepping stone between centuries, but it was also an embodiment of the sentiments from which it came.
  • Explains that art nouveau is a style that is easy to recognize, yet hard to define. the primary identifying characteristic is the use of line.
  • Compares the use of the natural and the philosophy of naturalism, a movement that art nouveau was consciously attempting to bring to an end.
  • Explains the popularity of japanese art at the time art nouveau was developing. it was a time when romanticism was strong, and japanisme prints and posters were widespread.
  • Analyzes how japanisme had such a strong influence on art nouveau. japanese art prominently portrayed natural things such as fish, birds, and flowers.
  • Analyzes how art nouveau's spirit is clearly evoked in its pieces. the industrial revolution had occurred several decades before the movement emerged.
  • Explains that the industrial revolution made it possible for the common man to have everyday objects that were beautiful. the bourgeois and proletariats believed that art must be life itself.
  • Analyzes how symbolism, similar to art nouveau artists' denial of naturalism, sought not to accurately portray what an object is, but to instead evoke its essence.
  • Explains that the atmosphere of the late 1800s was primed for art nouveau. the style was the convergence of a multitude of ideas, movements, and events.
  • Explains that the universal exhibition of paris in 1900 was of truly breathtaking proportions and scope, including more than 81,000 exhibitors.
  • Analyzes how hector guimard's design is a perfect example of fine art nouveau, embracing the strengths of his medium and finding the beauty in it.
  • Explains that art nouveau found outlets in every possible aspect of being. it enjoyed popularity not only as fine art in paintings and sculpture, but in another form of plebian enjoyment– as advertising.
  • Explains that art nouveau was a movement that lasted through the century and affected every style thereafter. modern artists sought the new in art deco, cubism, and postmodern art.
  • Opines that art nouveau embodied the sentiments of its time, and that we are ready to move forward, to break out of the so-called box.
  • Explains that the book of kells is one of the oldest and certainly the most famous books.
  • Opines that the details of the design just can't be done justice.
  • Explains that this piece of arts and crafts movement pottery is a modern day design by the company.
  • Explains that they believe that this is the guide for the universal exhibition of 1900.
  • Analyzes how the woman captures the spirit of what the exhibition is about.
  • Narrates how they found this picture on a website, in french, among the collection of photos.
  • Analyzes how all the pictures seem to be from the same photographer.
  • Explains that this was from another website, again in french, that seemed to be a pictorial history.
  • Opines that janes' postcard is a picture of the electric palace in france.
  • Describes the paris metro station from a french website.
  • Compares the powermac g4 computer system to the one they use to edit their films.
  • Explains dubois, paul. "book of kells image." 24 december 2003.
  • Explains fern, alan m., "graphic design." art nouveau. eds. peter selz and mildred constantine.
  • Analyzes gras, rutger, “made to last: typography of the paris metro.” letter arts review 15.
  • Describes greenhalgh's views on art nouveau and the status of style.
  • Cites janes, nathalie, "l'exposition de 1900 à travers des cartes publicitaires."
  • Cites ogata, amy, "art nouveau and the image of the artisan in fin-de-siècle belgium."
  • Explains paris 1900: the ‘american school’ at the universal exposition.
  • Cites partridge, howard, and cupola's art nouveau architecture - hotel tassel.
  • Explains that petit, janes, "en allant á l’expo." le site perso de james petit.
  • Explains that pierre bonnard, france champagne, lithograph (image). les maitres des arts graphiques.
  • Explains selz, peter, and mildred constantine's introduction to art nouveau.
  • Analyzes debora silverman's book art nouveau in fin-de-siecle france: politics, psychology, and style.
  • Explains weisberg's book, "japonisme: early sources and the french printmaker 1854-1882."
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