Key Dates: 1800-
This describes a decorative style popular from the last decade of the 19th century to the beginning of the First World War. It was characterised by an elaborate ornamental style based on asymmetrical lines, frequently depicting flowers, leaves or tendrils, or in the flowing hair of a female. It can be seen most effectively in the decorative arts, for example interior design, glasswork and jewellery. However, it was also seen in posters and illustration as well as certain paintings and sculptures of the period.
The movement took its name from La Maison de l’Art Nouveau in Paris, a shop keen to promote modern ideas in art. It was influenced by the Symbolists most obviously in their shared preference for exotic detail, as well as by Celtic and Japanese art. Art Nouveau flourished in Britain with its progressive Arts and Crafts movement, but was highly successful all around the world.
The leading exponents included the illustrators Aubrey Beardsley and Walter Crane in England; the architects Henry van de Velde and Victor Horta in Belgium; the jewellery designer René Lalique in France; the painter Gustav Klimt in Austria; the architect Antonio Gaudí in Spain; and the glassware designer Louis C. Tiffany and the architect Louis Sullivan in the United States. Its most common themes were symbolic and frequently erotic and the movement, despite not lasting beyond 1914 was important in terms of the development of abstract art.