Elements of Art Nouveau - Thomaston Auction
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April 3, 2023

Elements of Art Nouveau

If you have an eye for beauty or architectural wonders, you’re probably very familiar with the ethereal movement of Art Nouveau. Imagine organic, flowing shapes, dream-like fabrics and soft female models poised in classical portraiture.

Artists like Alphonse Mucha, Otto Eckmann, Franz Stuck, and Henri Privat-Livemont and designers like Victor Horta and Louis Comfort Tiffany brought this movement to its highest popularity before Art Deco began to grow. But what makes something ‘art nouveau?’ We’re here to answer that for you. In this topic of Elements of Art Movements, we will mainly be focusing on the graphic arts aspect of art nouveau, as the architecture and furniture design in of itself is worth a separate post for its own reading pleasure.

Art Nouveau was born around the 1880s in Belgium. The name was adopted by the House of the New Art, or ‘Maison de l’Art Nouveau,’ which was a gallery in Paris that opened in 1895. Almost as soon as the new art style was formed, neighboring countries like France and Austria quickly took notice and embraced the ethereal art movement, and soon that flowed from those countries into England and across the globe to the United States.

The French artists of that time period often used the term ‘Art Belle Époque’ to describe this movement, while Britain and America used Art Nouveau. Due to famous designer and artist Louis Comfort Tiffany, the patriarch of the Tiffany brand, the U.S also associated this movement as the ‘Tiffany style.’

When the Art Nouveau movement began to take hold in Belgium and France, organic and winding flora were seen in almost all creations, as well as other creatures of nature, like dragonflies, hummingbirds, butterflies and swans.

As Art Nouveau adapted further into the 1900s, the natural decorations had more stylized lines. These stylized lines would then evolve further into geometric forms that would soon announce the coming of the Art Deco (and Roaring 20s) era!

With the advancement of technology and machinery during this time, the art movement grew substantially and gained popularity on an international level. Artists like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Jules Cheret, Aubrey Beardsley and Alphonse Mucha gained immense notoriety for their incredible designs.

Art Nouveau is immensely recognizable; and artists associated with the movement found fame and fortune with its reigning popularity. Without the movement’s existence, we would not have known the talent of Eugene Grasset, who created the famous ‘Le Chat Noir’ poster in 1885 (and which a print of this currently sits in our marketing room!). We would not have been graced with the imagery of ‘Zodiac’ or ‘The Seasons,’ or even Gustav Klimt’s iconic ‘The Kiss,’ which hinted at the coming of the Art Deco movement in the folds of the couple’s golden fabric.

Art Nouveau generously provided grace, etherealism and implied its affinities with the Symbolist, Pre-Raphaelite and Japonist styles. It is a movement that will not ever be forgotten or lost to time, as it is linked with the technological advancement of printing on a global scale.

Some examples of Art Nouveau antiques and art we’ve sold at auction include this lithograph poster for ‘Lorenzaccio’ by Alphonse Mucha, which sold for $2,990 in our 2014 Summer Feature Auction.

Another Art Nouveau antique we’ve sold includes this dazzling 18K gold lady’s pendant watch for $5,433 in our 2013 Summer Feature Auction. Just look at those weaving vines!

Another Art Nouveau example includes this sculpture by Italian artist Attilio Fagioli, which sold for $3,336 in our 2015 November Feature Auction.

For more information on the Art Nouveau movement, check out The Art Story’s page and timeline at www.theartstory.org/movement/art-nouveau. Interested in consigning art nouveau antiques and art with us? Check out our Consignments Page!

Stay tuned for our next Elements of Movements topic: Art Deco!

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Kaja Veilleux, ME AUC #902
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