This past year has frustrated many would-be travellers, including me. The European trip we had planned for this spring had to be postponed until 2022 so, in an attempt to feel better I did the next best thing – I looked at pictures I had taken during previous trips.
It’s no secret that I love antique furniture and one of the style that amazes me is Art Nouveau; it lasted only twenty years (roughly from 1890 – 1910), was predominantly Euro-centered, so we see little of it in North America, and the complex construction of the pieces made it difficult to be successfully reproduced later on.
The name Art Nouveau means, literally in French, new art. Art dealer Samuel Siegfried Bing coined the phrase when, in December of 1895, he opened his famous gallery. The Maison de L’Art Nouveau in Paris exhibited works of artists and artisans who would become known for the Art Nouveau style.
If you examine the image above you will see how tendrils of wood come out from the walls and literally connect to the furniture. These sensuous, undulating protrusions become part of the construction of the furniture. The effect is amazing.
One of the most famous artist – architects of the Art Nouveau style is Barcelona’s Antoni Gaudi. If you’ve been to that city you know how important he was, and still is, to that city. After all, the Sagrada Familia Cathedral he designed (up until he died) is still not complete.
It is so amazing that such a conservative Catholic country such as Spain was such a hotbed of Art Nouveau style. What sets this style apart from others is that every aspect of the interior was designed to be part of a cohesive whole. There was no separating the furniture from the room and in Casa Batlo, there isn’t a single corner or angle in the entire building.
Other versions exist, such as in Glasgow, where Charles Rennie Macintosh was the reigning artist – designer of that style, but the look is very different. But that’s a story for another post.
Art Nouveau didn’t last long – perhaps because it was a bit outlandish, but probably because it was very expensive to create. It became associated with the “Belle Epoque’ era prior to WW1 where the rich lived a decadent, almost fairy-tale existence. After the war, Modernism, with its sharp angles and lighter woods, swept away all tendrils of the past.
Travel to any of the cities mentioned above is good reason enough to see examples of this amazing style.