Gaudi was one of the proponents of Art Nouveau design or Modernismo as it was known in Spain. Apart from his amazing architectural feats in his cherished home town of Barcelona, he also designed furniture for each of the buildings he created.
Gaudi was an amazing architect but what also is amazing is that he had patrons that were also as forward-thinking as he was to pay him to create these often large scale projects. Check out my other blog post on his architecture.
Not everyone loves Gaudi’s furniture and I have to admit that, although I appreciate the architectuure, I find his furniture to feel somewhat heavy – at least to my eyes. However there are enough fans who love his furniture for the Gaudi museum shops to offer a replica of some of his chairs starting at 2,000 + euros. Of course this is much cheaper than real Gaudi furniture. Christie’s Auctions offered a folding screen and wall mirror for sale at one of its auctions and realized $1,385,000 and $47,000 respectively.
So what is Art Nouveau?
In order to explain this to the students in my History of Furniture class I challenged them to design a piece of furniture (on paper) using a piece of limp, cooked spaghetti. Cutting the noodle was not allowed.
If you can imagine this exercise then you know that the shapes created would have to be fluid ones with very few straight lines. Many people tried to describe this style by calling it by the following names: whiplash”, jugendstil, tapeworm style, Liberty Style and of course, noodle style.
The term “Art Nouveau” was first used by shop owner Samuel Bing in Paris in 1885. It simply mean “new art”. Bing commissioned art work from such famous artists as Toulouse Lautrec, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Roussel.
It wasn’t to last however because it was a style that became associated with excess in the early decades of the 20th century and it had tough competition – the Arts and Crafts style, which has, as we know, stood the test of time.
Art Nouveau furniture is not commonly available in North America, although this may not be the case so much on the eastern seaboard – especially of the United States. Most of what is readily available at shops and antique fairs are decorative objects such as jewelery, glass ware, china, light fixtures, and all manner of things made from metals such as brass and sterling silver.