Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau is a style in multiple genres of art. It emerged as a result of artists’ creative reformulating of the cultural legacy of the past. Its characteristic features are curved, wavy lines that lend the image an elegance and an airy lightness. Precise contours, soaring shapes and dynamic patterns make the stylistics of Art Nouveau instantly recognizable.

Autumn by Alphonse Mucha
Spring by Alphonse Mucha

Art Nouveau developed at the same time in all the European and American schools of painting, and this led to differences between particular styles. The term Art Nouveau (French for “new art”) took root in France after a store with this name was opened in the center of Paris, selling goods from the Orient. The term “modern style” was more commonly used in England, while the Belgians tended to call it the “Liberty style”, and the Germans – the “Jugendstil”.

Adele Bloch Bauer by Gustav Klimt

Art Nouveau adopted the finest traditions of Japanese engraving: precise, decorative lines, a lack of superfluous
details, and balance between the background and the main image. The curved lines and ornaments with extra-long
elements created a sense of movement. The plant and animal world, with their abundance of unusual forms, served as an inexhaustible source of ideas for decor, providing a wealth of material for the creative imagination.

Art Nouveau painting brings together a host of shared characteristics: the plane-based nature of the image; contrasting color combinations; flowing forms and weird and wonderful silhouettes; the decorative nature of the image; Eastern motifs in the subjects of the paintings.

The birth of Art Nouveau painting happened in France and coincided with the period when Impressionism was on the wane. At the end of the 1880s, paintings appeared in which the characteristics of the new movement could clearly be traced.

One of these works is Vincent Willem van Gogh’s painting “Starry Night”, in which the movement of the stars at night is reminiscent of an ornament, and the dynamics of the painting create lines that spin around in a spiral.

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Paul Gauguin had a big impact on the development of Art Nouveau. The peak of his creativity came in the 1890s.

Woman holding a fruit by Paul Gaugin

By 1910, Art Nouveau had become less popular and was gradually being displaced by new movements.