What Was the Art Nouveau Period?

Marjorie McAtee

The Art Nouveau period, from about 1895 until about 1915, was an era when artists created a new style most famously reflected in jewelry, furnishings, interior design, and architecture. Many ordinary objects used in daily life, such as cutlery and dinnerware, were created in the Art Nouveau style during this period, as artists of the school wished to combine artistic sensibilities with usefulness. Works of the Art Nouveau period typically bear certain characteristics, such as long, flowing lines, an emphasis on objects from the natural world, and obsession with the feminine figure. Color schemes were often very understated, and focused on dull shades of green, brown, and yellow coupled with shades of purple, lavender, and blue.

Art noveau often featured plant and flower motifs.
Art noveau often featured plant and flower motifs.

The school of art known as Art Nouveau was most popular in England, Germany and France, with countries each creating their own styles of Art Nouveau. French works of Art Nouveau are generally known for their use of lines to create figures, especially plants and feminine figures. Female figures, especially with long flowing hair, were a popular embellishment on Art Nouveau pieces. British Art Nouveau pieces took their influence from the country's pre-Roman heritage, with an emphasis on clean lines used to form Celtic-inspired patterns.

The Art Nouveau period included architecture with arches and curved lines.
The Art Nouveau period included architecture with arches and curved lines.

Many works from the Art Nouveau period emphasize themes of nature and the natural world. Art historians believe that advances in botany throughout the 19th century encouraged the creation of artistically-inspired housewares, jewelry, furnishing, and architectural flourishes that paid homage to the natural world. Many pieces from the Art Nouveau period therefore incorporate flowers, snakes, and insects into their flowing, rococo-inspired designs. Orchids, poppies, and irises were often included in Art Nouveau designs, as were dragonflies, birds, and butterflies.

Craftsmen working during the Art Nouveau period rebelled against the strictly utilitarian, mass-produced, and unimaginative nature of many of the consumer goods on offer during the later part of the 19th century. Mass production of consumer goods was in its infancy at this time, and many craftsmen of the Art Nouveau school believed these early mass-produced goods lacked aesthetic beauty. Works of the Art Nouveau period were instead influenced by the rococo artworks of the previous century. Many believe that Japanese artistic influences can be seen in Art Nouveau pieces, since works of Japanese art were quite popular in Europe during the early 19th century.

The Art Nouveau period was inspired by the early Rococo period.
The Art Nouveau period was inspired by the early Rococo period.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@MrsPramm - I always think it's a bit short sighted to call a period "modern" or "new" because if it's going to be any good, it's probably going to be around for a while and the term eventually becomes silly. This is why we end up with names like post-post-modern. I think they should come up with something elegant and relevant to the period. It doesn't have to encompass every single part of it, but something about nature or flowers or curves would be far more suitable for Art Nouveau than a title that simply translates to "New Art".


@browncoat - I hope you managed to get to the Mucha Museum in Prague. He was responsible for much of the popularity of the movement and designed many of the buildings you were admiring. I don't think he liked the name "Art Nouveau" though, if I remember correctly.


I've always been very fond of the Art Nouveau style in art and jewelry, but I didn't realize how beautiful it could be in architecture until I went to visit Prague a few years ago with my sister.

There are several stunning examples of buildings built and furnished in this style and they are absolutely breathtaking, even for modern eyes. I wish it was still the current style, or that the period had lasted longer so that we had more examples of this kind of thing.

Post your comments
Forgot password?