What Is Art Nouveau Pottery?

Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee
Iris blooms were a common theme in Art Nouveau pottery.
Iris blooms were a common theme in Art Nouveau pottery.

Art Nouveau pottery is pottery done in the Art Nouveau style. This style, which appeared in the final decade of the 19th century and remained fairly popular until the first World War, influenced architecture, interior design, and jewelry. Many ordinary objects for daily use were also rendered more elaborate and artistic with Art Nouveau design, since proponents of the style typically believed art should be more a part of ordinary life and less a province of the upper-class elite. Art Nouveau pottery works typically incorporate many of the basic elements of Art Nouveau design, including the use of floral and other nature-inspired ornaments, emphasis on wavy, curving lines, and the depiction of women's faces and bodies as a major design element.

Like most works of the Art Nouveau period, Art Nouveau pottery often used floral and botanical elements. Potters typically embellished their pots with the blooms of irises and other flowers, as well as sinuous vines. Insects, such as dragonflies and butterflies, also appeared in these designs.

The faces and bodies of women, often surrounded by long, curling tresses, were popular Art Nouveau pottery design elements. Colors were generally rather muted and understated. Pale pinks and blues, as well as shades of beige and lavender, were popular choices for ceramics done in this style.

Most artistic pieces done in the Art Nouveau style were intended to be more than just decorative. Artists of this school generally rejected the notion of art for art's sake, and sought to bring aesthetic beauty into the lives of the masses by designing artworks that could also be used for practical purposes. Examples of Art Nouveau pottery therefore include flower vases, stoneware jars, dinnerware, and tea services. These useful objects typically took on shapes that reflected the movement's emphasis on radically curving lines and took advantage of naturalistic Art Nouveau design elements.

Art historians generally believe that the American Arts and Crafts artistic movement inspired the Art Nouveau movement, which took place throughout Europe. The influx of Japanese artworks into Europe throughout the 19th century is also believed to have influenced the creation of Art Nouveau pieces, including Art Nouveau pottery. While the pieces created by these movements were often utilitarian in nature, they were also generally designed for beauty and aesthetic pleasure. Pieces done in these styles were typically handcrafted. Though the craftspeople of the Art Nouveau movement also embraced the concept of bringing aesthetic beauty into everyday life, they did not usually consider hand-crafting essential.

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    • Iris blooms were a common theme in Art Nouveau pottery.
      By: Diana Taliun
      Iris blooms were a common theme in Art Nouveau pottery.